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Vahe Sarukhanyan

Commander Sefilyan is an “Undesirable” in the Eyes of the Authorities

On May 19th the support committee for jailed freedom fighters Jirayr Sefilyan and Vardan Malkhasyan announced that, “we’ve received troubling signals regarding Jirayr Sefilyan in that the regime is preparing to execute the next in its long list of foul deeds by deporting the noted commander of the Artsakh War from the fatherland.”

Just a few days ago the Chief Mkhitaryan of the Legal Security Division of the ROA Police Department petitioned Armenia’s Administrative Court to sanction the deportation of Sefilyan. On May 23rd Vahe Grigoryan, Sefilyan’s lawyer, was handed the legal documentation officially dated as of the 21st of this month.

It is interesting to note that on the same day, May 21st, Justice Minister Gevorg Danielyan, while answering a question posed by National Assembly Delegate Zaruhi Postanjyan, declared that, “Let me state directly that given Sefilyan’s current status, naturally there is no basis on which to grant him citizenship.’ According to assurances given by the Minister there were no plans underway to deport Sefilyan at the time. The Minister added however that, “If a basis for such a procedure were to appear in the future, the issue would be taken under review.”

On May 23rd a group of organizations petitioned the authorities regarding putting a halt to the political persecution of Sefilyan and to see fit to grant him the legal right to reside in Armenia. These groups also directed their appeal to several international bodies as well.

Jirayr Sefilyan, a Lebanese citizen who commanded a special military unit that participated in the liberation of Shushi, was arrested on December 9, 2006 and again on August 6, 2007, on charges of possessing an illegal firearm and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. Also charged at the same time and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment was freedom fighter Vardan Malkhasyan as well as Vahan Aroyan, who was initially sentenced to 18 months incarceration. A review court lengthened the latter’s sentence to 2 years. (See: http://www.hetq.am/eng/court/529/)

Jirayr Sefilyan earned the military rank of lieutenant colonel and has been honored with the “Military Cross, 1st Order; commendations from the “Defense of the Liberated Territories” and “Unity of Armenian Volunteers” civic organizations. He is also President of the Board of Trustees of the “Araks-Kur” Foundation.

Mr. Sefilyan is to be released from the Vardashen Prison on June 9th but it appears that the Armenian authorities have found a way to “free” themselves of this opposition activist. Back in December 2006 Sefilyan announced that they were ready to clamp down on the hands of those preparing to subvert the 2007 parliamentary elections. He was arrested immediately afterwards and then imprisoned after the elections. During this time Mr. Sefilyan’s mother passed away in Beirut. The administration of the Vardashen Prison continuously refused to intercede on behalf of Sefilyan and Malkhasyan and petition the parole board for their early release. During the recent presidential elections, Sefilyan, a former member of the ARF-D, actively supported the candidacy of Levon Ter-Petrosyan and the National Movement, through his writings and statements made from his prison cell. In a recent interview that appeared in the newspaper “Haykakan Zhamanak” Sefilyan stated, “The work of this national movement to oust this clearly criminal regime must continue until victory...Our supporters must seriously discuss what our next concrete steps will be that will ultimately lead to a unified set of decisions. Soon after I am released we will use the media to notify and invite the people, especially our old and new supporters, to a public advisory meeting where we will discuss our upcoming plan of action.” The response of the authorities to these statements was quick in coming.

Mr. Sefilyan first came to Armenia in July of 1990 but only applied for citizenship in 2003. (The Constitution of Armenia states that individuals of Armenian extraction can obtain citizenship quite matter-of-factly). His applications for citizenship in 2003 and 2005 went unanswered and were denied without substantiation in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Today, Sefilyan remains in Armenia without any official status simply because he’s never been granted any. It is on this basis that the Armenian authorities seek to have him deported. However, according to Article 32, Point 2, of the ROA law concerning foreign nationals, “a foreign national cannot be deported from the ROA if there are underage children under his/her care.” Mr. Sefilyan has two sons residing in Yerevan, 14 month-old Peto and 2 year-old Vahagn. Mr. Sefilyan’s wife, Nanor Barseghyan, who also has been denied citizenship, works at the Lebanese Embassy in Yerevan. It is only because of this that she has received residency status.

Mr. Sefilyan’s lawyer, Vahe Grigoryan, has stated that they will appeal the decision of the police, a step that will temporarily halt the deportation process. Mr. Sefilyan would by law have to be granted temporary residency status if the court sees fit to dismiss the claim of the police; which would mean going against the wishes of the “higher-ups”. If the court were to decide to deport Mr. Sefilyan, his name would then be entered in the “black list” of Armenia’s undesirables.

Nanor Barseghyan says, “There is no rule of law in Armenia and thus his deportation can’t be excluded.” She defiantly adds that, “We will fight everywhere and in every manner.” As to the question whether she and the kids would possibly leave Armenia voluntarily if Jirayr were to be deported, Nanor responded, “No, why would we? My work is here and the children go to school here, they don’t speak a word of Arabic. I’m staying here just to spite Robik and Serzhik. This is our country as well...”

On May 22nd the famous Artsakh War commander petitioned Bako Sahakyan, President of the NKR, to grant him Karabakh citizenship. President Sahakyan has yet to respond to this request. The Shushi “Special Forces” commander petitioned for Karabakh citizenship last year as well. At that time the NKR government responded by stating that his appeal would be reviewed only after the law “regarding NKR citizenship” had been passed and ratified.


Open letter

addressed to:

RA President Serge Sargsyan
RA NA Speaker Tigran Torosyan
RA PM Tigran Sargsyan
NKR President Bako Sahakyan
RA Human Rights Defender Armen Harutyunyan
RA Chief of Police Hayk Harutyunyan
RA Director of National Security Service Gorik Hakobyan
RA General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan
CoE Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg
CoE Secretary General Terry Davis
H.E. Ambassador of Lebanon in the RA
H.E. Ambassador of France in the RA
H.E. Ambassador of the USA in the RA
Human Rights Watch international human rights organization

Since December 9, 2006 Zhirayr Sefilian, a citizen of Lebanon, who lives in Armenia for about 17 years now, is under the arrest, as a result of political persecution by the state of Armenia. In June 9, 2008 his term in prison will be over. Zhirayr Sefilian has requested the state authorities of the Republic of Armenia for granting his citizenship of the RA. The request has been denied without any valid reasons. Ethnic Armenians can be granted Armenian citizenship based on the current legislation through a simplified procedure. Alas the law was not applied in this case for the famous freedom fighter.

Since April 2008 the mass media means have been spreading news about the Armenian authorities preparing to expel Zhirayr Sefilian from Armenia. And on May 21, 2008 RA Police provoke a case to Administrative court regarding the expel of Zhirayr Sefilyan. Taken into account the fact that Zhirayr Sefilian in order to be able to live in Armenia, as per RA legislation,  should have either special resident permit or be granted RA citizenship, the current regime refused to grant one of the Shushi heroes, either a special resident permit or citizenship.

Zhirayr Sefilian is married and has two sons: Peto Sefilian (born in 1994 in Beirut) and Vahagn Sefilian (born in 2006 in Yerevan). The wife of illegally arrested patriot Mrs. Nanor Sefilian is working as an assistant to the Ambassador of Lebanon in the RA and is covered with all diplomatic privileges and immunities stipulated in April 18, 1961 Vienna convention.

The Sefilian family living in Armenia for about 17 years has became a fully integrated part of the Armenian society and posses real estate. The elder son is studying in the secondary school. Both sons speak only Armenian. Zhirayr Sefilian has military title of colonel-lieutenant of military force of Armenia. He is a famous public activist. Despite this the Sefilian family does not have any real estate, source of income and other means for living in Lebanon.

With the approach of not granting a special resident permit or citizenship to Zhirayr Sefilian  as well as by provoking the case regarding his expelling, the state authorities of Armenia de facto are forcing the family to make a choice by either living separately or to go to Lebanon, where the lack of proper means for living would have a negative reflection on the future lives of patriotic family members. It is a well known fact that due to civil war in Lebanon many Lebanese Armenians had to leave the country.

Thus we demand from the RA authorities to:

- Stop continuous and ongoing political persecution against Zhirayr Sefilian, 
- Grant permission to Zhirayr Sefilian to live in Armenia.

We also demand from the international relevant organizations to:

- Immediately react by initiating specific steps to prevent or stop the political persecutions of the RA authorities against someone who has a contribution in creating democratic values in Armenia and who has became a victim for his views as well as not to permit his expulsion from Armenia, which would a strong violation of human rights.

“Zhirayr Sefilian protection” team
NA Deputy Zaruhi Postanjyan
“Advocates for Human Rights” NGO, Seda Melikyan
“Huis” NGO, Lala Aslikyan
“Asparez” Journalists’ Club, Levon Barseghyan
“Zartonk-89” NGO, Silva Vardanyan
“Sksel a” youth movement, Arsen Kharatyan

See also:
Sefilyan, Malkhasyan and Aroyan convicted
Nanor Sefilyan - “Armenia is our motherland which no force can snatch from us”
Jirair Sefilyan and Vardan Malkhasyan are Charged with Calling for Overthrow of the Government
“Jirairs Make History”
Conversation Between Jirayr Sefilyan and the Parlamentarians
Zhirayr Sefilian’s Speech

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