Tuesday, 25 September

Vazgen Manukyan versus Haykakan Zhamanak

On December 15, the daily Haykakan Zhamanak printed an article entitled “Vazgen Manukyan's Mein Kampf".  The article (written by Garegin Asoyan) stated that on September 27, 1996, during a warranted search of Vazgen Manukyan's National Democratic Union (NDU) party office, a manuscript was confiscated which had been written by Manukyan, but in the third person.

The manuscript was entitled "How to Do It" and, according to Haykakan Zhamanak, had been written in the period between the 1995 parliamentary and 1996 presidential elections.  Printing large excerpts from the manuscript, the newspaper noted that it had contained a plan for regime change.  According to that plan, Manukyan would become the leader of an opposition movement and create his own secret reporting and operating network from among high ranking and junior officials, and it would be necessary to create a division within the ruling powers and to bring out the people against the authorities, even by prompting Azerbaijan to prepare attacks against Armenia and Artsakh.

The article also contained a handwritten section of the manuscript.

Vazgen Manukyan reacted immediately.  On December 17, 2007 he declared on Radio Liberty that he had nothing to do with the manuscript.

"First of all, I don't want to get into how they entered our office in 1996 and ransacked it - whether or not that was a legal search.  Let us also ignore whether or not they took any documents from our party office.  I can even set forget the malice with which that article was written, but unfortunately, that malice was not just in the article but seems to be seeping through the atmosphere like poison in Armenia and is always from the same source," said Manukyan, hinting at the Armenian National Movement (ANM).

ANM Board Vice-President Andranik Hovakimyan told the radio station, "The ANM had nothing to do with it…  It was printed in Haykakan Zhamanak, and all questions should be directed to Haykakan Zhamanak."

Haykakan Zhamanak offered no comment.

On the following day, December 18, Vazgen Manukyan called a pressed conference and announced that he did not want a criminal case to be filed against Haykakan Zhamanak, because in his view, "It is wrong to file a criminal case against any newspaper during an election.  There has to be another way.  I don't need an apology, I need to prove that they are lying and that I am not a terrorist."

That was reason enough for the NDU to organize an expert analysis of the manuscript through the Prosecutor's office.  "That will prove that the manuscript did not contain my handwriting.  I will be exonerated, but the poison will remain in the minds of the public," said Manukyan.

Haykakan Zhamanak offered Manukyan the chance to submit a handwritten text, the words of which would coincide with any section of the manuscript.  The readers would then be given a chance to decide who was right. But Manukyan said that he would rather have an official investigation.  He proposed to Haykakan Zhamanak that they present a joint request for an investigation, perhaps to a European country.

The ADU President also said that when Vano Siradeghyan published that manuscript in the newspaper 02 in 1996, he (Manukyan) did not go to court because, "The authorities had to prove that I was the author and if it was indeed me, they should have filed a criminal case, but they did not do this."  However, the same manuscript was published in 2001 in the Aravot and Chorrord Ishkhanutyun dailies, but Manukyan did not complain against them.

If Manukyan were to go the Prosecutor's office for an analysis of the manuscript, then first a criminal case would have to be filed against Haykakan Zhamanak.  In an effort to avoid this, Manukyan's authorized representative, lawyer Vardan Zurnachyan, contacted Haykakan Zhamanak editor-in-chief Nikol Pashinyan on the evening of December 18 and asked whether he would agree to the proposal for a joint investigation made during the press conference.  Pashinyan rejected the proposal.  The editor told Aravot that agreeing would mean that he was not certain that the manuscript came from Manukyan's pen when he authorized its publication, which would damage his credibility.

On the following day, December 19, presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan made an announcement in which he stated, "In such conditions, taking into consideration the urgency of the case as well as the cynicism with which the newspaper has tried to hurt and libel me and give wrong information to the public, I am forced to go to the Prosecutor and demand that a criminal case be filed for the acts of slander and libel.  I would like to emphasize that I would not have gone to the Prosecutor had the newspaper editor agreed to my representative's proposal to send the manuscript for analysis abroad."

Manukyan's letter of complaint was presented to the Office of the Prosecutor General on December 20.  On the following day, the Office declared that a criminal case had been filed and sent to the central investigative department of the police, based on Criminal Code articles 135.1 (libel - spreading obvious lies damaging the honor and dignity or the good reputation of a person, punishable by a fine of fifty or a hundred and fifty times the minimum wage or through corrective measures for up to a year) and 136.1 (offense - damaging the honor and dignity of a person, punishable by a fine up to a hundred times the minimum wage or through corrective measures up to six months) and the police would start the investigation.

Hetq asked whether it were possible that the two sides would reach a reconciliation if it were proven that the manuscript were fake (i.e. not penned by Manukyan), to which lawyer Vardan Zurnachyan replied, "I cannot rule out that Manukyan would have such magnanimity."  He also considered the possibility that they would go to court with a separate demand, asking to print a correction or reply in the same newspaper.  The lawyer noted that in any case it would have been more correct for the newspaper to do this on its own initiative.

On December 19, the newspaper Zhamanak Yerevan noted that information available to them suggested that the manuscript was authored by philosopher Ruben Angaladyan, not Vazgen Manukyan.  "Anagaladyan wrote the manuscript and presented it to Manukyan as proposal, and it was then confiscated from the latter's archives," noted Zhamanak Yerevan.

However, Angaladyan told a 168 Zham correspondent that he had never had anything to do with Vazgen Manukyan and denied being the author of the manuscript.

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