AKHALKALAK, Javakhk—Georgian authorities released Georgian-Armenian activist Vahagn Chakhalyan, who was serving a 10-year sentence for alleged weapons possession and inciting unrest, his lawyers reported on Jan. 24.
Chakhalyan was arrested by Georgian authorities on July 21, 2008. He was given a 10-year sentence for “organization of large-scale events, public disturbance, hooliganism and illegal possession of weapons,” based on falsified evidence. Vahagn Chakhalyan’s case is currently being studied at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Chakhalyan, accompanied by friends and colleagues who were gathered at the prison, went to the Holy Etchmiadzin Church in Tbilisi, where he was greeted by the Primate of the Georgian Diocese Bishop Vasgen Mirzakhanyan.
Chakhalyan was greeted at the church by Armen Gevorgyan and Ruben Shekoyan, two Armenian political prisoners who were released on January 13 in accordance with a parliamentary amnesty decision.
His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians also spoke to Chakhlyan by phone, sending his blessings to the newly released activist.
Chakhalyan left the Tbilisi church and headed home to Akhalkalak, Javakhk.
Head of the “Strong Homeland” party, Shirak Torosyan, told Yerkir Media that Georgian-Armenian organizations, as well as the Georgian Diocese, played a large role in securing Chakhalyan’s release.
“We are encouraged by the new Georgian government’s recent release of Vahagn Chakhalyan and other Armenian activists, from Javakahk and across Georgia, who were improperly jailed simply for the free expression of their ideas and aspirations,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“We welcome these first signs of a more tolerant and pluralist atmosphere in Georgia, and hope that a new, positive approach to the nation’s ethnic and civic diversity will open the door to the cooperative and comprehensive solutions needed to bring about enduring improvements for the Armenian population and all of Georgia’s citizens,” added Hamparian.
During a visit to Armenian last week, Georgia’s Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said the “ball is now in my court,” to fulfill campaign promises regarding the improvement of conditions for the Armenian population of Javakhk.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Ivanishvili pledged to do his best to improve the situation in Georgia’s Javakhki region mainly populated by Armenians. Most of them voted for his Georgian Dream alliance in the October elections.
“The Georgian opposition has never received so many ethnic Armenian votes before,” said Ivanishvili. “I want to again thank [Javakhk Armenians.] I gave them many promises. I won’t list those promises now. But I guarantee that the ball is now in my court.”