|Dialects||Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian|
Prominent Oppositionist Again Denied Armenian Citizenship
December 3, 2008
The Armenian authorities have again refused to grant Armenian citizenship to Zhirayr Sefilian, a Lebanese-born prominent veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh war bitterly opposed to them, it emerged on Wednesday.
The Alliance of Armenian Volunteers (HKH), a Sefilian-led nationalist group, said the outspoken oppositionist was informed by Armenian immigration authorities on Tuesday that President Serzh Sarkisian has turned down his fresh citizenship application.
Sefilian condemned the decision as illegal and politically motivated. “It once again showed just how far these authorities are from the Armenian people,” he told RFE/RL.
Sefilian lodged the application on June 18, one week after his release from jail. He and another opposition-linked war veteran, Vartan Malkhasian, had been arrested and charged with calling for a violent overthrow of the government in December 2006 just days after holding the HKH’s founding congress in Yerevan. A Yerevan court subsequently cleared Sefilian of the charge but still jailed him for 18 months for illegally possessing a pistol which he claimed to have received as a gift from a former commander of the Karabakh Armenian army.
The Lebanese national had already been twice denied Armenian citizenship despite his active participation in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan that earned him the military rank of lieutenant-colonel. He commanded one of the Karabakh Armenian units that stormed and seized the strategic town of Shushi in May 1992. Sefilian retired from the Karabakh military in the late 1990s.
Speaking to RFE/RL, Norayr Muradkhanian, chief of the Department of Visas and Passports (OVIR) of the Armenian police, confirmed that Sefilian’s fresh application for an Armenian passport has been rejected. Muradkhanian said a relevant decree signed by Sarkisian late last month gave no reason for the rebuff.
A spokesman for the Armenian president promised to comment on the matter on Thursday.
The Armenian authorities already sparked a public outcry when they tried to deport Sefilian from the country shortly before his release from prison. The police asked Armenia’s Administrative Court at the time to authorize the deportation on the grounds that his residency permit has expired. The court refused to consider the application on a technicality on May 27.
Sefilian and the HKH, which is strongly opposed to any Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan, chose to support opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian in last February’s presidential election despite the latter’s well-known conciliatory views on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The HKH is one of about two dozen opposition groups making up Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress alliance.
Sefilian recently joined a group of prominent opposition politicians and intellectuals in launching a new movement, called Miatsum (Unification), campaigning against Armenian withdrawal from Azerbaijani districts surrounding Karabakh. The liberation of virtually all of those districts is a key element of international mediators’ existing peace proposals largely acceptable to Yerevan.
Radical Oppositionist Wins European Court Case
Irina Hovhannisyan 03.10.2012
The European Court of Human Rights has fined the Armenian authorities 6,000 euros ($7,700) in connection with the 2006 arrest and prosecution of a prominent nationalist activist bitterly opposed to them.
Zhirayr Sefilian, a Lebanese citizen who settled in Armenia over two decades ago, is due to receive the financial compensation more than four years after completing a two-year prison sentence given for allegedly illegal arms possession.
Zhirayr Sefilian and another well-known veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh war were arrested in December 2006 after holding the founding congress of their Alliance of Armenian Volunteers (HKH), a pressure strongly opposed to any territorial concessions to Azerbaijan. Armenia’s National Security Service claimed they planned to mount an armed uprising against the government ahead of the May 2007 parliamentary elections. Both men denied the charges as politically motivated.
Sefilian was cleared of the coup charge during his subsequent trial. But he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for illegally possessing a pistol which he claimed to have received as a gift from a former commander of the Karabakh Armenian army.
In a verdict announced this week, the European Court of Human Rights court ruled that Sefilian was kept under pre-trial arrest for eight months without sufficient legal grounds. It said the NSS also wiretapped the oppositionist’s phone conversations in the months leading up to his arrest, in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Sefilian’s lawyer, Vahe Grigorian, portrayed the ruling on Wednesday as further proof that the Armenian authorities handled the case with “disgraceful violations” of the due process. Grigorian said former Robert Kocharian must bear “political responsibility” for ordering his client’s arrest.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), the lawyer said he will also appeal to President Serzh Sarkisian and state prosecutors to sack law-enforcement officials who dealt with the case.
Sefilian supported former President Levon Ter-Petrosian in the February 2008 presidential election. The HKH was among about two dozen opposition groups that joined an opposition alliance set up by Ter-Petrosian after the election. Sefilian broke with that alliance and formed a new opposition group, the Sardarapat movement, in 2009. The small group stands for more radical methods of political struggle.