(TUJo/IFEX) - According to information obtained by TUJo, Vahram Aghajanian, a journalist from the Mountainous Karabakh territory of the Azerbaijan Republic, which is under occupation from the neighbouring Armenian Republic, has been arrested. His apartment was also ransacked in the wake of a massive police investigation into the attempted murder of the president of the self-proclaimed Mountainous Karabakh Republic, Arkady Ghukasian.
The president of the disputed enclave was wounded in both legs when two gunmen riddled his Mercedes with machine-gun bullets on 22 March 2000.
Karabakh's interior affairs officials burst into Aghajanian's apartment on 28 March, and proceeded to ransack the premises, purportedly searching for weapons, drugs and cash. They also rifled through video and audio cassettes, newspapers and documents. Insiders claim that the police officers failed to produce a search warrant before entering the apartment, which is a direct violation of the law.
Aghajanian was then summoned to the offices of the ministry of the interior in Khankendi, where he is still in custody. His sister was told, "Don't expect him to be released anytime soon."
As yet, no official charges have been brought against the journalist, although sources close to the case say Aghajanian is being questioned over articles he recently published about Anushavan Danielian, the self proclaimed Karabakh prime minister.
Aghajanian has long been a thorn in the side of the Karabakh regime and has already been arrested on several occasions. He is employed by the "Tasnerord Nahang" ("Tenth Province") newspaper, which is thought to be controlled by Samvel Babayan, commander-in-chief of the self proclaimed Karabakh army.
"Tasnerord Nahang" was sued for libel in December 1999, over a series of articles criticising Danielian. A separate case was brought against Aghajanian for libeling government officials.
Aghajanian also writes for "Iravunk" ("Right"), a Yerevan-based paper which is the official organ of the Union for Constitutional Rights, a party which supports Babayan.
Aghajanian is well known in Azerbaijan, and he took part in the Support for the Mass Media in the Caucasus project, organized in Baku last June in partnership with the Swiss ministry of internal affairs. During his visit to Baku, the journalist published a series of articles in the Baku newspaper "Zerkalo" ("Mirror").
Meanwhile, press representatives in Armenia and Azerbaijan have been quick to voice their protests. Yerevan's "Haykakan Zhamanak" ("Armenian Time") said "the Karabakh authorities decided to take advantage of the uncertain situation and gag any journalists who are not accountable to the authorities."