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The arrests of Armenians denounced as a political outrage2009-01-29 17:28
The director of the Armenian Youth Centre in Akhaltsikhe in Georgia Grigory Minasyan was arrested on 22nd January, having been forcibly removed from a marshrutka near the town of Aspinza. A few hours later Sarkis Akopjanyan, president of the Charles Aznavour charity, was taken into custody.
On the same day, officials from the Georgian Interior Ministry told the Regnum agency that the arrested men were suspected of espionage and having established an illegal armed unit. However, the Georgian law enforcement agencies did not specify who they were spying on or who for, and what evidence they had of their guilt.
These are not the first public figures to have been arrested in Javakheti, a region where more than half of the population is made up of Armenians. Last July Georgian law enforcement officials arrested the chairman of the "United Javakhk" movement Vahagn Chakhalyan. He was accused of storing arms and organizing mass unrest. The police also tried to arrest a second leader of the movement, Gurgen Shirinyan, on the same allegations, but he fled. In all this, two policemen were mysteriously killed.
Court proceedings were held in December. They did not give much consideration to Shirinyan's case, who had fled hence was absent - the court sentenced him in absentia to 17 years imprisonment. It ended up being more difficult to deal with Chakhalyan. The case against him began to unravel. The two final sessions were adjourned, and on 20th January it was revealed that a new criminal investigation was underway against him. This time for hooliganism. It emerged that the Akhalkalaki prosecutor's office had launched this case in relation to the events that occurred in 2006. Back then "United Javakhk", which was unhappy with the results of the elections to local government bodies, organized mass protest actions in the town.
Such scenes were also repeated this time round. On 23rd January a new protest action took place outside the Akhaltsikhe youth centre building. Those who gathered there declared that they did not believe the accusations levelled against the arrested men. And they appealed for Armenia to intervene.
"Georgia has made another despicable step," the site bagin.info for Armenians in Javakheti cited one of the demonstrators. "This is the last time we will try and believe in the existence of friendship between Armenia and Georgia, and we will wait for Armenia and its political forces to take respective counter-measures. However, if they keep silent as usual and settle for just making statements, then Javakhk won't have anything left to expect from them."