December 8, 2010

His Excellency Serzh Sargsyan
President of the Republic of Armenia
Office of the President
Marshal Bagharmaina St 26
375077 Yerevan
Fax: + 374 10 521 581

Gevorg Danielyan
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia
41/a Halabyan Street
Yerevan 0079

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the assault on editor Nikol Pashinyan in prison.

According to our information, Nikol Pashinyan, 35, jailed opposition politician and editor of the newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak (Armenian Times), was reportedly attacked by two masked men in his cell at Kosh Prison on November 11, 2010. Prison authorities denied the attack happened, and said that Pashinyan’s medical exam had not revealed any signs of the alleged beating; however, local press sources have reported that an independent medical evaluation was never conducted.

Shortly after the incident, on December 1, 2010, Pashinyan, who was serving a four-year prison sentence for allegedly “organizing mass riots,” was moved to Artik Prison and placed in solitary confinement for apparently breaking unspecified prison rules and for arguing with other inmates. However, Pashinyan’s lawyer maintains that the move was punishment for a series of editorials that Pashinyan wrote and published from prison, criticizing alleged corruption in the Armenian prison system. According to his lawyer, prison authorities had repeatedly ordered Pashinyan to stop writing, but he continued.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned about the attack on Nikol Pashinyan in his prison cell, and his subsequent move into solitary confinement. We understand that journalists in Armenia are often at risk of physical attack because of their work, and that thorough investigations of these attacks are rare. We believe that Pashinyan is being punished solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Armenia is a signatory. We therefore call on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the assault, to protect journalists from attack while peacefully completing their work, and to release Pashinyan immediately and unconditionally.  

Thank you for your urgent attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula                  
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                 
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Tatoul Markarian
Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the United States
2225 R Street NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 319-2982

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