To the Editors:
On March 25, 1988, Paruir Airikyan, a former political prisoner, was arrested and charged under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (“anti-Soviet slander”). The real reason for his arrest was for gathering and distributing information about the recent riots and demonstrations in Armenia—much of the information available to the West has been made available through his efforts. On March 22, after holding a press conference on the Armenian events, Airikyan was detained in Moscow, brought back under guard to Yerevan, and arrested three days later.
Paruir Airikyan is a well-known human rights activist in the Soviet Union, a member of the National United Party of Armenia, a founding member of the Armenian Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners and an editor of Raparakainutyun, the Armenian version of Glasnost magazine.
Since March 25, 1988, Airikyan has been held in the KGB investigation prison. Reportedly he is being interrogated on charges of compiling a list of the victims of the rioting in Sumgait and publishing the Raparakainutyun. Airikyan has not yet been allowed to consult with a lawyer nor has his wife, Elena, been allowed to visit him.
Well-known Soviet dissidents and exiles have issued a statement on Airikyan’s behalf expressing their concern for him and his family. They also express their fear that his arrest will mark the start of a new wave of repression in the Soviet Union.
Center for Democracy in the USSR
New York City
Paruir Airikyan was arrested in Yerevan on March 25, 1988. This was the third arrest of Airikyan. He was first arrested in 1969 when he was twenty years old and sentenced to four years in prison. Having served his term and then spending not more than a year at liberty, he was arrested a second time. This second term was lengthened while he was in labor camp with a new conviction.
All the accusations against Airikyan were based on his human rights and nonviolent political activity.
In the 1970s, Airikyan became one of the leading members of the National Liberation Party of Armenia (NOP), which tried to realize the constitutional rights to autonomy of the Armenian people. All of those who had contact with Airikyan speak of his bright personality, internationalism and as a person who, as a matter of principle, is not given to violence as a method of political struggle.
After his release, in January 1987, Airikyan organized the publication of the journal Glasnost in the Armenian language. He informed the Soviet people and the world about massive expressions of the Armenian people concerning urgent problems—among them ecological and national issues. He then became a founding member of the Armenian Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners and the United Supporters for an Independent Armenia, which is trying to participate in discussions of state importance.
He also tried to collect and pass along news and information about the latest tragic events, including reprisals against Armenians in Azerbaidjan. In particular, he passed along to journalists a list of names and addresses of victims of the pogrom in Sumgait. It was after this that he was detained in Moscow and sent to Yerevan under police guard, and there he was placed under arrest. The arrest of Airikyan is the first arrest of a human rights activist of his distinction during the period of Gorbachev’s glasnost.
The case of Airikyan is under the direction of the KGB. It earlier became known that he was accused under two articles: Article 190-1 and Article 190-3. However, the investigator, Akopyan, claims that the indictment has not yet been formulated (according to law this should already have been done). At the same time, different rumors have been circulating about Airikyan, distorting his biography, the essesnce of his activity, and his previous convictions and even his age. There are even doubts being spread as to whether he is actually under arrest at all.
A few days after his arrest, Airikyan’s wife, Elena Airikyan (Sirotenko) with three children (six months, two years old and three years old) took part in a demonstration in the Central Committee building of the Communist Party of Armenia. The children were wearing T-shirts with the slogans, MY FATHER PARUIR IS IN PRISON, DEMOCRACY IS NOT A PRISON, and DEMIRCHAN, LET AIRIKYAN GO.
In spite of the children’s tears and the protests of their mother, the police tore off the T-shirts and all four were placed under arrest for several hours.
We are seriously concerned about the fate of Airikyan and his family. We are afraid that the arrest of Airikyan will become the beginning of a new wave of repression. We call on everyone to work for the release of Airikyan.
Ludmila Alexeeva, Shagan and Marzpet, Arutunyan, Vartan Aristanyan, Vladimir Borisov, Sergei Broude, Vladimir Bukovsky, Irina Christi, Viktor Davydov, Victor Fainberg, Lilya, Fyodor, and Vadim Finkel, Sergei Genkin, Igor Gerashchenko, Arina and Alexander Ginzberg, Tengiz, Eduard, and Marina Gudava, Georg Hashchyan, Georg Karashunkyan, Ivan Kovalyov, Kronid and Galina Lubarsky, Svetlana Mayatnikova, Olga and Yuri Medvedkov, Anush Mkrtchyan, Asya Nagapetyan, Tatiana Osipova, Irina Ratushinskaya, Maria and Mark Reitman, Natan Sharansky, Danilo Shumuk, Nadya Svetlichnaya, Yuri Tuvim, Raisa Uvarova, Alexander Voronel, Albina Yakoreva, Grigor Yashan, Yuri Yarim-Agaev, and Janna, Yakov, and Tatiana Zakuta
July 21, 1988