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Armenian Journalist With Brain Tumor Released From Prison

Arman Babajanian on his release from a Yerevan prison on August 4.
Arman Babajanian on his release from a Yerevan prison on August 4.
YEREVAN -- The editor of an Armenian pro-opposition daily who is suffering from a brain tumor has been freed after more than three years in prison, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Arman Babajanian's release came hours after a state commission empowered to grant parole discussed his worsening health and decided to let him undergo urgent treatment at a civilian hospital.

The decision was endorsed by a Yerevan judge.

Babajanian, former editor of the "Zhamanak," was greeted by dozens of relatives and opposition activists as he left the prison hospital in Yerevan.

He had trouble walking and was assisted by opposition parliamentarian Armen Martirosian.

Babajanian told journalists that his condition is "unstable" and he asked that people pray for his health.

Babajanian's uncle, Levon Vartanian, said the editor will be flown abroad for treatment.

He told RFE/RL that "our doctors have fooled us so much we don't trust them anymore."

Vartanian said Babajanian's brain tumor was first detected one year ago and that local doctors denied its seriousness until recently.

"If they had let him go last year, there would not be so many complications," Vartanian said.

Babajanian was taken to the prison hospital last month after a serious deterioration of his condition.

The hospital administration formally recommended his early release on August 7.

Babajanian was arrested in June 2006 and subsequently sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for forging documents to evade military service.

Officials repeatedly refused to free him despite appeals from domestic and international human rights groups.