Turks demand freedom for Armenian intellectual
Sunday, December 27, 2009
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Sarkis Haszpanyan was tortured in Turkey in the aftermath of the Sept. 12, 1980, military coup, his friends say.
Turkish intellectuals have launched an online petition protesting the imprisonment of an Armenian who was arrested after he gave a newspaper interview in 2008.
The petition, published at the gercek-inatcidir.blogspot.com, is an effort to free Sarkis Haszpanyan, who was arrested and imprisoned in Armenia after he gave an interview. The petition was launched by Sait Çetinoğlu, author and editor at Belge International Publishing, and received more than 30 signatures in its first day.
The support is coming not only from Turkish intellectuals living in Turkey but also from other parts of the world. Visitors to the site can read an open letter to Armenian President Serge Sarkisian penned by Turkish intellectuals.
“Haszpanyan is being punished unjustly. Let this torture end,” said Çetinoğlu, speaking to Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. “Sarkis was tortured in Turkey in the aftermath of the Sept. 12, 1980, military coup. He escaped to France as a refugee. In 1991, when Armenia gained independence, he went there and put up a struggle. This should not be his fate.”
Temel Demirel, another leader of the campaign, said Haszpanyan is “a part of Anatolia.”
Demirel said he and Haszpanyan were tortured at the same time after the 1980 coup. “Authoritarian regimes that imprison and torture people because of their thoughts are enemies of humanity and democracy,” he said.
For an interview
What led to his imprisonment was a November 2008 interview published in the Haygagan Jamanag (Armenian Time) newspaper, known for supporting Armenia’s first president, Levon Ter-Petrossian. Armenia was preparing for the presidential elections at the time.
“[In the interview] Hazspanyan said some people might be planning to assassinate Sarkisian,” Hayk Kevorkyan from the newspaper told the Daily News. “He was arrested right after the interview was published.”
“They were already looking for an excuse to arrest him. The interview played right into their hands,” Kevorkyan said, adding that there are currently 15 political prisoners in Armenia. “Bloody events occurred right after the March 2008 presidential elections, which are still waiting to be uncovered. At that time, 150 people were arrested and questioned for completely political reasons.”
David Shahnazarian, a representative of the Armenian National Congress, or ANC, congratulated Turkish intellectuals on their efforts. “We want Armenia to respect human rights, democracy and [freedom of] thought as soon as possible,” he told the Daily News. Shahnazarian is known as the “right hand” of Ter-Petrossian and was the president of the Armenian National Security Council in the 1990s.
Born in Hatay, Sarkis Haszpanyan was an active member of an outlawed communist organization in Turkey in the 1970s, together with the late Hrant Dink, who was a close friend of his. Dink was assassinated in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007