Javakhk Leaders Charged with Spying, ‘Militant’ Actions

Grigor Minasyan (L) and Sergei Hagopjanyan (R) were ambushed and arrested last Wednesday by Georgian Special Interior Ministery forces.

TBILISI, JAVAKHK (A-Info)–A Tbilisi court Saturday charged two Javakhk Armenian community leaders Grigor Minasyan and Sergei Hagopjanyan with alleged involvement in organizing "armed groups" and spying. The two are to remain in custody for two months pending a trial.

Minasyan and Hagopjanyan were arrested last Wednesday, when Georgian Special Interior Ministery forces, backed up by Tbilisi police, ambushed the two and remanded them to custody in the capital.

Minasyan, who is the director of Armenian Youth Center, was stopped on the way from Akhalkalak to Akhaltskha. During the arrest police from Tbilisi, who had traveled all the way to Akhalkalak handcuffed Minasyan and videotaped the entire process.

Hagopjanyan, who is the director of the "Charles Aznavour" Benevolent Organization was attending a funeral at the time of his arrest.

The two have retained counsel and were present in court, along with their relatives Saturday.

The incident has left the Javakhk Armenian community stunned. The community believes that this is a direct effort by Georgian authorities to destabilize the Armenian community, adding that this was not the first attempt by Tbilisi to baselessly arrest Armenian community leaders.

The "Virk" political party issued an announcement severely criticizing the Georgian government for what it called "obviously anti-Armenian" attacks. The announcement explained that the Georgian authorities were baselessly targeting those forces in the community who are active politically and did not refrain from raising issues critical to the Armenia’s of Georgia and Javakhk, specifically.

"We call on–and, why not, warn–the Georgian authorities to not pull the Armenia’s of Javakhk in their dirty and divisive games," said the announcement, which went on to demand the immediate release of the two leaders.

The community has been gathered at the Armenian Youth Center to hear leaders and come together in the face of this attempt at destabilizing the community. A special Mass was also said at the church in Akhalkalak.

On Wednesday Tbilisi police raided their residences but found nothing. The two were moved to a prison facility in Tbilisi. The Council of Armenian Organizations immediately retained counsel and has reported the incident to Georgia’s Human Rights Defense Committee.

Prior to the arrests the same group of interior ministry forces raided the Akhalkalak Youth Center, where young children were at dance practice. The law enforcement agents confiscated cell phones from instructors and students and placed the center under lockdown. The children were forced to stay in the center for three hours, during which the Special Forces confiscated the center’s computer hard drives and several books from the library and took photos of the library and its contents.

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