Yesterday, the Deputy Director of the National Security Service Investigative Unit, Mikayel Hambartsumyan, was interviewed on State Television, on the criminal case involving the Civilitas Foundation and its founder, Vartan Oskanian, Civilitas said in a statement.
"The interview was evidence, yet again, of a baseless investigation. During the entire interview, Hambartsumyan set aside his professional responsibilities and attempted to present a distorted reality by manipulating facts and presenting information selectively. We find it unacceptable that an investigator charged with prosecuting a criminal case is forced to divert from his professional responsibilities and carry out a PR campaign.
The Civilitas Foundation Board reasserts that during the time period when a portion of the Huntsman funds, intended for the Civilitas Foundation, were in Vartan Oskanian's account for the purpose of allocating to the Civilitas Foundation at his discretion, and as necessary, the Board was aware of the existence of the funds and the allocations. The Board has never had any concerns or issues with the availability of funds when they became necessary in order to carry out activities defined by the organization's Bylaws.
At the time that the criminal case was opened (May 25, 2012), approximately one-third of the funds held by Vartan Oskanian had been transferred to the Civilitas Foundation's account, based on Civilitas's needs, and the remainder, including accrued interest, remained under Mr. Oskanian's discretion.
If there are still those who doubt that all this is the result of a political directive, we wish to point out that harassment and persecution of the Civilitas Foundation and Vartan Oskanian began in 2009. We have not made public statements about these events, because, unlike Armenia's government, we are concerned that the negative perceptions of our country are not aggravated. However, today, as the authorities undertake actions which exceed all limits, we are obliged to mention several actions.
In 2009, one of the Civilitas Foundation's first supporters became the subject of direct pressure and was convinced to step back from a significant multi-year donation.
In 2009, Vartan Oskanian was elected to the Board of one of Armenia's commercial banks. The bank's majority stockholders were threatened with bankruptcy if they did not remove Mr. Oskanian from the Board.
Near the end of 2009, at the height of the Armenia-Turkey protocols process, when Vartan Oskanian (and Civilitas analysts as well) spoke out about the problems inherent in that process, the Civilitas Foundation was in the midst of implementing a project in Armenia's southern Meghri region, in the border villages of Shvanidsor and Alvank. The $240,000 project, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, involved water distribution systems and local governance mechanisms. As a result of the Armenian government's direct interference, the Swiss Foreign Ministry put a stop to the project, Civilitas had to return unspent funds, and thus future projects with the same agency, intended to benefit Armenia's border villages, also came to an end.
The harassment has spread to the Civilitas staff as well. First, Civilitas staff members were followed home, for the purposes of intimidation. Then, three Civilitas staff members who lecture at three different institutions of higher learning were not invited back this academic year, and their contracts were not renewed. Yerevan State University did not renew its contract with journalist/analyst Tatul Hakobyan, who had taught at the Journalism Department for years. The same university, and the Pedagogical University as well, did not renew their contract with Lilik Stepanyan, who taught television journalism at those institutions. And a private university as well, AUAJ, with no explanation, did not extend the contract of Albert Manaseryan.
So many odd ‘coincidences' are hardly possible. The Civilitas Foundation Board expects that such intolerance and persecution will stop," says the Foundation.