Raffi Hovannisian Detained at Yerevan Airport

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PRESS RELEASE
Armenian Center for National and International Studies
75 Yerznkian Street
Yerevan 375033, Armenia
Tel: (+374 - 10) 52.87.80 or 27.48.18
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E-mail: root @ acnis.am or info @ acnis.am
Website: www.acnis.am

November 30, 2005

RAFFI HOVANNISIAN DETAINED AT YEREVAN AIRPORT

Yerevan--Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia's first Minister of Foreign Affairs, was detained today for detailed questioning and inspection before boarding an Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna.

Awaited and confronted by an airport national security (formerly KGB) agent identifying himself as Arsen Poghosyan and saying his job was to ensure passenger safety, Raffi Hovannisian was questioned about the purpose of his trip, the Armenian constitution, and other matters unrelated to airport security. Pursuant to a predetermined plan, Hovannisian's personal effects and papers were thoroughly examined, one by one, on the pretext of a search for possible "state secrets." Among the documents were a constitutional draft prepared by the Heritage Party, publications of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, the December schedule of Yerevan's theaters, a draft of an unsent private letter to Armenia's acting president, and Hovannisian's airline ticket.

Agent Poghosyan, upon making several telephone calls, invited customs agent Karen Petrosyan to the scene and instructed him to determine whether Raffi Hovannisian was in violation of relevant customs laws, suggesting a further examination of Hovannisian's personal papers in a separate room. There, under Poghosyan's watch, it was Petrosyan's turn to scour through the documents in pursuit of state secrets. Not finding any, he was signaled by Poghosyan to make a photocopy of Hovannisian's draft correspondence.

Raffi Hovannisian refused that suggestion and demanded the return of his papers or else a formal declaration as to the basis for the detention. Thereupon, Hovannisian was allowed to board the flight, already delayed pending the outcome of the detention, with a final remark from Poghosyan that they would "meet" on Hovannisian's return.

Raffi Hovannisian, who is en route to Kiev, Ukraine, to attend the International Public Forum of the Community for Democratic Choice together with former Czech President Vaclav Havel, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, US Senator John McCain, and other high-level officials and dignitaries, diplomats, scholars, policymakers, and human rights activists, has over the years had several similar experiences--during the Soviet period and in Turkey--but never before in the independent Republic of Armenia whose flag he raised at the United Nations. He returns to Yerevan on December 3.