Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The story posted below came as a surprise to me. I knew Lavrent’s story, but didn’t know that he was recently turned down for a business loan.

I called Lavrent today and asked him the story was and why he didn’t come to me for a loan? He said that I’ve done too much for him already, I now have a family to take care of and he does not want any money from me. He went on to say that he was going to apply again for a loan.

Well I don’t want to sound negative, but I have a feeling that Lavrent, who is a pain in the side of our corrupt officials, will get the run around again and in the end be turned down. This is a guy who I’ve witnessed telling people in their face how it is. And of course these are the same people who in the end decide who will get loans, even loans that they themselves are not personally giving.

Though he won’t take money from me, I see no reason why he won’t take a loan from the “HAYOC MARTIKNER LOAN PROGRAM”.

The way I see the program working is that with your tax-deductable contributions to the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation, Inc., we give interest-free small business development loans to veterans of the Artsakh liberation struggle, our first recipient being Lavrent.

The loan will have a term for as long as the recipient sees fit and is not repaid to the foundation, but is up to the recipient of the loan to pass it on to another veteran who in turn will do the same. Of course if the business fails and the loan can’t be repaid, so be it, the idea is that we give a chance to someone worthy to get up on their feet. And trust me when I tell you, if given a chance, Lavrent will succeed and pass on the loan plus a little bit more to someone else as driven as he is.

For those who are interested in participating in this loan program, please e-mail me at:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lavrent Shumanyan: A Man Molded by the Wounds of War
[June 16, 2008]

During the Artsakh War the tank he commanded was the first to plunge into battle, straight towards the enemy positions from which there was little chance of returning from in one piece. He was given these difficult missions because everyone knew that Lavrent wasn’t one to shirk the responsibilities assigned him and that he’d fulfill the mission objectives no matter what the cost and safely return. Anyone who knows the man will attest to these traits of his.

The courage exemplified by Lavrent Shumanyan is legendary; the many scars his body carries are a striking testament to this fact. The scars are so numerous that he can’t remember the events surrounding every incident in which he was wounded. His many hospital stays were short in duration. As soon as his wounds were treated Lavrent would make his way back to the front lines.

“Land mines exploded underneath my tank a total of 29 times.” he notes and recounts one particular battle when he received a head wound “from 3 mines simultaneously exploding and throwing me out of the tank to the ground.” This however wasn’t the last battle he fought in for Lavrent could never rest easy while the lives of his comrades in arms were in danger. It was this internal motivation that drove him to take on ever new challenges that fate had in store for him. He met these challenges but still has to overcome the blows destiny has left in its wake.

Having served in the Soviet military as a sailor Lavrent could never have imagined becoming a tank driver within the period of a few hours. It was Avo (Monte Melkonian) who came up with the idea. Lavrent, born and bred in the Martuni village of Yemishjan, recounts that, “In early 1992, after serving some nine months in the Soviet Army I returned to Karabakh where military operations had already commenced.”

It wouldn’t dawn on a stranger that Lavrent is only 36 years old. You’d have to be told the road this man has traveled to realize that the slings and arrows of life have left their mark on this disabled man’s exterior.

A tractor technician by trade, the need for skilled individuals like Lavrent was felt from the first day of the war. Then tractors had to be quickly repaired in order to transport artillery shells to the front. This is how Lavrent was first battle weaned. Later on he participated in the war in a host of military capacities.

“One day Avo instructed our unit leader to send me to see him. I go see Avo and he tells me that I have to become a tank commander. Since I had also dreamt of becoming one I was naturally quite pleased at the prospect. I asked Avo to give me a week’s time to prepare but he tells me, ‘No, you must be ready in three hours.’ They instructed me as best they could and then we were off to the forward positions.” recounts Lavrent and continues with his war time saga during which he made it all the way to the Omar Pass in the Mrav Mountains of northern Karabakh.

It was there that Lavrent was wounded for the last time in the war and it proved to be the worst injury he sustained. His column was making its way along a narrow oath towards Omar Mountain. A series of mine explosions violently rattled the tank he was in and all the crew were thrown out. The rest of the tank crew were taken to local field hospitals while Lavrent stayed behind awaiting help to arrive so that the tank could be repaired and continue on ahead. Lavrent was waiting a few meters distant from the tank when a series of explosions threw him into the bushes. “The Azeris hit my tank with an RPG says Lavrent who remembers the blood flowing out of his ears. “tried to contact my guys but I couldn’t pronounce the words, my entire mouth had gone numb. Luckily the guys realized that I was in trouble and soon arrived on the scene.”

Lavrent’s future wife, Zarineh, knew that he had been wounded on numerous occasions. At the time she was working at the old-aged home in Stepanakert when she met Lavrent and fell in love. But Zarineh was always melancholy, something which vexed Lavrent. It turns out that she was an orphan. “Before getting married my mother would constantly ask me what kind of girl did I want to marry - a beautiful girl, a rich one…? My answer was always the same - an orphan girl. This way I’d perform an act of kindness during my life. And that’s what happened. For one year and two months Zarineh literally “tortured” me. She’d never stop to talk to me but afterwards, when the opportunity arose, I quickly decided to get married.” says Lavrent while glancing over at his wife.

Zarineh was just four years-old when her parents and sister died. She was looked after by a series of caring strangers until Lavrent came along. They married in 1994. At first they lived in Lavrent’s native village. After the ceasefire Lavrent continued to serve in the ranks of the Artsakh Army. In 2002 the army provided them with an apartment in Stepanakert that the couple was forced to sell 18 months later so that Zarineh could be taken to Yerevan for surgery. She’s already undergone six operations but still experiences heart problems. After all their problems Zarineh states that God bestowed them with little Arsen, their pride and joy.

Arsen, now seven years old, is their third child and his birth has somewhat served to mollify the grief they felt after loosing their second child.

Lavrent has moved to Shushi and has started from scratch. He’s trying everything to start his own business and take care of his family. So far he’s not made a go of things. In 2007 he applied for a loan under the “Government Assistance Program for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises” but was turned down for unexplained reasons.

Presently, the family’s only income is the monthly 54,000 dram pension that Lavrent receives as a registered 2nd degree disabled war veteran. Years ago the government granted him a Niva automobile which he possesses till today. A periodic source of income for him is the Graz dump truck donated to him on a temporary basis by Ara Manoogian, an American-Armenian. Lavrent sometimes uses the truck to make some extra money but confesses that business isn’t that great.

“I’m not saying that the government should be giving our guys financial assistance but rather jobs so that we can work and provide for our families. What about the guy in a wheelchair, how can he survive?” asks Lavrent.

He remembers all his wartime buddies, especially those who wound up falling on the battlefield. Lavrent can go on talking about them for hours on end. But he holds a special place in his heart for Aperik (Ararat Shamamyan) who was only 17 when he was killed.

Years of difficulty have so tempered and molded Lavrent that most problems are brushed aside as commonplace. Perhaps the only thing that could break the spirit of this self-confident and daring man are the injustices, of which he confesses there are many, in our everyday lives. As he himself sums it up, “There are men who change cars like they were changing a pair of socks, but then there are those who can’t even change their own socks.”

Anahit Danielyan

George Najarian’s Lawyer Motions the Court to Detain the Accused
[June 16, 2008]

The latest news emanating from the on-going Najarian court case in Armenia is that Grigor Igityan has been charged with using fraud to swindle George and Carolann Najarian, American-Armenian benefactors, out of their property. For the past three years, the time that the trial has been dragging on, the court had constantly refused to bring such charges against the defendant in the case. The Najarians had been waging an uphill battle with the courts during the entire period.

Despite the fact that the court has finally leveled official charges, the entire matter is still caught in legal merry-go-round of sorts. Judge Zhora Vardanyan has been presiding over the trial in the Yerevan Kentron and Nork-Marash Court of First Instance since March 2007.

At the trial session that took place on May 24, 2007, the Najarians’ legal counsel, Hrayr Ghoukasyan, asked the court to “immediately take measures for preventing the irresponsible and destructive actions of the defense, as well as for securing the normal process and appropriate resolution of the criminal case's investigation.”

At the time Mr. Ghoukasyan stated that “…only two witnesses have so far been interrogated during the trial, which has lasted for about 2.5 month. This evidently indicates the unhidden intention of the defendant and his attorney to artificially delay the trial and turn it into “an eternal one.” (See: The Trial is Coming).

More than a year has since passed. In essence the major portion of the trial proceedings has been completed and the time has now come for closing statements and speeches, after which the judge will hand down his decision. However, since May 6th of this year, the court sessions have been consecutively postponed.

“Kromvel Grigoryan, the defense attorney for the accused, has systematically been absent from trial sessions. The main reasons he gives is that he tied up with other court sessions or interrogating witnesses on the stand on those same dates and times; something which is difficult to verify” says attorney Ghoukasyan. He describes such behavior as mocking the court system and is thus calling for Armenia’s Chamber of Advocates to investigate the actions of Mr. K. Grigoryan.

Attorney H. Ghoukasyan is convinced that, “All the evidence presented up till now has gone against the accused and the defense realizes that official charges cannot be avoided. This charade is their last cry to delay a verdict in the case.”

Mr. Igityan is looking at a possible jail sentence ranging from 4 to 8 years if found guilty of the charge of illegally appropriating property. Given the conduct of his lawyer the judge can “demand” that Igityan hire new counsel. It appears that this is exactly what the defense is striving for given that a new attorney can request additional time for adequate preparation, recalling witnesses and a host of other delaying tactics. In this way the entire matter can easily devolve into the “eternal trial” that Ghoukasyan had predicted.

“The judge must take into account the complexities of the case and the time already exhausted when making a decision regarding a change in defense counsel. The trial has been dragging on for over a year already while all that’s needed at this stage is for the defense to make its one hour closing statement for the entire matter to be wrapped up. Thus any change at this stage wouldn’t be propitious from the court’s perspective.” states Attorney Ghoukasyan. He believes that Igityan’s defense attorney has no personal interest in delaying the proceedings and that it is the defendant himself who is directing his counsel to take such an approach.

Mr. Ghoukasyan says that, “This is all the result of the fact that defendant Igityan was never taken into custody at the time as a pre-trial measure even though there were sufficient reasons to do so. Had Igityan been taken into custody he would have requested that trial sessions take place daily in order for the matter to be quickly resolved.” He goes on by concluding that the fastest route out of this entire jumble is for Igityan to be detained in the interim.

“It’s true, the defendant shows up at all the trial sessions and, on the face of it, appears not to hinder the court proceedings. But it’s clear to all what’s actually going on. In essence, the actions of the defense are leaving the court with no other alternative but to take the extreme measure of detaining the accused.” states Ghoukasyan.

What course of action Judge Vardanyan takes will become clear at the trial session scheduled for June 18th. Of course, this will depend on whether Defense Attorney K. Grigoryan shows up or not and whether the trial is once again postponed.

Anahit Danielyan

Sunday, June 15, 2008

11 of 21 candidates of judges got satisfactory marks

13-06-2008 11:42:54 -

On July 1 the Court of Appeal will be set up, and the judges of the Court of Appeal and the first instance court will be appointed till June 20.

In order to assess the candidates an exam was held on June 5 which 21 candidates took.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Chief Prosecutor Slams Ombudsman Over Unrest Report

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 06/05/2008
By Karine Kalantarian

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian strongly criticized Armenia's human rights Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian on Thursday for challenging the official version of the deadly street clashes that followed the recent presidential election.

The Armenian authorities have defended the use of lethal force against thousands of supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian who barricaded themselves on a street junction outside the Yerevan mayor's office hours after the break-up of their 10-day sit-in in the city's Liberty Square on March 1. They say security forces that tried to disperse the angry crowd were not only pelted with stones and Molotov cocktails but also came under gunfire.

Harutiunian cast doubt on the credibility of the official theory in an extensive report issued in late April. The report said in particular that the Armenian police have yet to publicize any evidence of the use of firearms by the protesters. It stressed that the deadly violence was sparked by the dispersal of some 2,000 Ter-Petrosian supporters camped out in Liberty Square. It said that contrary to police assurances the protesters were `not given any time to stop the rally.'

The Office of the Prosecutor-General and the Ministry of Justice voiced strong objections to the ombudsman's findings in separate reports released late last month. The move led the human rights committee of the Armenian parliament to hold hearings on the controversy.

Speaking at the hearings, Hovsepian claimed that Harutiunian's report is based on `unfounded' opposition claims and is therefore not objective. He said the ombudsman also overstepped his constitutional powers by making recommendations. `It is obvious that by publicly raising questions you did not seek to get answers to them and pursued other goals,' he told Harutiunian.

In his speech before the panel, Harutiunian rejected the accusations. He claimed that the Office of the Prosecutor-General and the Justice Ministry deliberately `distorted' the content of his report in order to avoid answering questions raised by it. He also said Armenia's constitution and laws do not empower the prosecutors to challenge statements made by the human rights defender.

That claim was echoed by David Harutiunian (no relation), chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs and one of the few lawmakers who defended the ombudsman during the hearings. `There is nothing wrong with the prosecutor's office presenting its position,' he told RFE/RL. `But am concerned that the issues raised by the prosecutor's office are quite politically motivated. There is a desire to defend the authorities which I think is unacceptable.'

Parliament Resignation Fuels Talk Of Speaker Change

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 06/05/2008
By Ruzanna Khachatrian

A pro-government member of the National Assembly resigned on Thursday, adding to speculation that his influential brother, who manages President Serzh Sarkisian's staff, is set to become the new speaker of the Armenian parliament.

Hovik Abrahamian, the chief of the presidential administration who previously served as Armenia's deputy prime minister, has been linked with the post for the past few weeks.

Reports in the Armenian press have claimed Sarkisian has already decided to replace the current parliament speaker, Tigran Torosian. According to them, Abrahamian, who is not a parliament deputy, will be named in Torosian's place after securing a parliament seat currently held by his brother Henrik.

The latter was elected to the National Assembly from a constituency encompassing the southern town of Artashat and nearby villages. The area is widely considered to be a de facto fiefdom of the Abrahamians.

They are both senior members of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) headed by Sarkisian. Hovik Abrahamian was the campaign manager of the HHK and Sarkisian in the last presidential and parliamentary elections.

Henrik Abrahamian gave no reason for his decision to tender his resignation which was announced by the parliament's press service. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

A spokesman for the HHK, Eduard Sharmazanov, pointedly declined to refute speculation that the move is part of Torosian's imminent replacement by Abrahamian. `There has been no discussion of a change of National Assembly president or Mr. Abrahamian becoming the next parliament speaker within the Republican Party as yet,' he told reporters.

Asked whether such a discussion could take place, Sharmazanov said, `I can't make predications.'