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Armenian Court Unfreezes Newspaper Assets

"Hraparak" editor Armine Ohanian
YEREVAN -- A Yerevan court has reversed its controversial decision to freeze the bank accounts and other assets of an independent daily charged with libel by former President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The court made the decision late on April 11 in response to a petition from the newspaper "Hraparak."

"Thank God that some people in some bodies probably realized that it is wrong to resort to such actions," "Hraparak" editor Armine Ohanian told RFE/RL on April 12. But she claimed at the same time that the decision could be a "trick" designed to create a semblance of fairness in the court proceedings.

Kocharian sued "Hraparak" last month, demanding 6 million drams ($16,000) in libel damages for a February article that depicted him as a "bloodthirsty" individual who is also notorious for his "particularly brilliant foolishness."

His lawyers have described these characterizations as untrue and defamatory.

Ohanian rejected these claims and condemned the legal action as an attack on press freedom.

Kocharian and his family are also locked in a court battle with another newspaper, "Zhamanak," that is highly critical of the ex-president. The case stems from a September article which said Kocharian's wife and older son are engaged in large-scale business activities.

Ohanian and "Zhamanak" editor Arman Babajanian last week urged other media outlets to show solidarity with their embattled publications by reprinting the articles that angered Kocharian. They said the Armenian media should also lobby for the repeal of new defamation legislation enacted last year.