BREAKING NEWS: Robert Avetisyan, Artsakh Permanent Representative in the U.S., falsely reports on U.S. human rights activist Ara K. Manoogian, causing a harassment by persons claiming to be Sheriff’s Deputies and an attempted arrest by the Glendale Police Department.
Glendale, CA – A brief and friendly conversation with Robert Avetisyan, Permanent Representative of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Artsakh) in the U.S., in the lobby of Hilton Hotel, late in the evening of November 24, 2013, nearly cost U.S. activist Ara K. Manoogian, his freedom. The two had a cordial encounter in the hotel lobby following the “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund Gala fundraising banquet. Avetisyan also tried to strike up a friendly conversation with Alex, Manoogian’s 5-year-old son.
Shortly after bidding good-bye, Robert Avetisyan falsely reported to the Artsakh President’s security personnel that Manoogian had made threats to him (watch the full video with English and Armenian subtitles at http://www.thetruthmustbetold.com/attempted-arrest-video/). President Sahakyan was staying in that hotel for the duration of his trip in Glendale, CA. He was in the U.S. to participate in the “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund telethon, scheduled to take place on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2013.
At first Manoogian was approached by Garo Kasbarian, who, according to the website of the Armenian National Peace Officers Association (http://www.anpoa.org/directors.htm), is Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy and Vice-President of the Armenian National Peace Officers Association. He plainly said: “Sheriff’s Department. You’re leaving right now.” After Manoogian insisted on a detailed explanation of why he had to leave, Kasbarian said: “They’re saying you are, like, here creating problems.”
Manoogian explained to him he was waiting for someone in the lobby to hand-deliver two reports: his “Donate Or Not to Donate,” a white paper on “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund, and “Corruption in Armenia,” a State of the Nation report by Policy Forum Armenia. But Kasbarian was abrupt: “Let’s stop playing around!” He then added that Glendale Police had been dispatched: “If you do not leave, they will charge you with trespassing.” Manoogian refused to leave until the police would arrive and ask him to do so.
A couple of minutes later, Tevan Aroustamian, who, according to European American Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Advisory Council (http://lasd-easac.org/2.html), is Special assistant to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, joined Garo Kasbarian to inform Manoogian that he was suspected of having made threats to Robert Avetisyan. Without revealing his name, he identified himself as someone capable of overruling whatever Kasbarian had said. Aroustamian was most likely there in the capacity of Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan’s chief of security personnel.
Below is an excerpt from the conversation between Tevan Aroustamian and Ara K. Manoogian:
TA: But why did you speak with the… the representative of Artsakh?
AM: He knows me.
TA: Oh, he knows you.
AM: Robert Avetisyan?
AM: I saw him sitting here and shook his hand.
AM: And I said: ‘How’re you doing?’ And that was it.
TA: And you didn’t say, ‘I am going to do this, that, that, whatever’?
AM: Of course, not? Are you serious he said that?
TA: Exactly. That’s what I want to understand.
Aroustamian told Manoogian that ‘they were telling a lot of stories’ about him and wondered what his ‘problem’ was. Manoogian handed him the two above-mentioned reports and heard from him the following sarcastic response: “Are you the DA [District Attorney] or are you General Inspector of the country? Who you are? And what do you think you have to protest? What is your protest? What is the idea you have in your brain?”
Manoogian told Aroustamian that his concern was that there is corruption in Armenia, and that the Armenia Fund feeds into it. Aroustamian demanded proof, and Manoogian pointed at the two reports in his hands. “And Karabakh is also involved with the same corruption or Armenia is only?” Aroustamian asked. Manoogian gave an affirmative answer, indicating tax evasion and budgetary losses as causes.
A few minutes later, another member of the Armenian National Peace Officers Association approached Manoogian. He was Ron Minassian, who, according to the website of the Armenian National Peace Officers Association (http://www.anpoa.org/directors.htm), is Sergeant-at-Arms and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy. Minassian turned out to be the rudest of them all, ordering Manoogian to leave the premises immediately or face charges for trespassing, as he was allegedly in violation of 602 PC (Penal Code).
“As soon as Glendale PD gets here, you’re going to jail. And your kid’s gonna go to DCFS [Department of Child and Family Services]. Think about it. I’m not messing around!” Minassian threatened. Minassian’s overall overbearing demeanor and tone caused Manoogian’s 5-year-old son, Alex, to become noticeably quiet and withdrawn.
Before the Glendale PD officers’ arrival, Aroustamian revealed what could be interpreted as the true motive behind their attempt to have Manoogian arrested, in the following exchange of words:
TA: Our issue is… We have a problem here… Our job is to protect our president.
AM: Your president is upstairs, right?
AM: Do I… Am I armed here? Am I…
TA: I am not saying you are armed.
AM: So, why… what’s the danger?
TA: I’m not saying you are armed. We got all of your file… what you been doing. You tried to disturb the All-Armenian Fund functions. OK? Don’t say no!
AM: Is there a file like that? I’d like to see it. Is it public record?
TA: No! It’s what you did Saturday at the Glendale Library.
AM: Is that a disruption?… Oh, that was a disruption with the Armenia Fund?
TA: You tried to disrupt… Anyway…
What Tevan Aroustamian referred to as something Ara K. Manoogian did on Saturday at the Glendale Public Library, was “Stop Armenian Corruption,” a Town Hall Meeting organized by the newly-formed Pan-Armenian Coalition to Stop Corruption. A founding member of this grassroots initiative, Manoogian was one of the panelists who spoke about “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund and government corruption.
When the Glendale police arrived, a senior officer attempted to search Manoogian’s bag, but Manoogian expressed his objection, requesting a search warrant, which they did not have. He told the police officers that he was there to hand-deliver some books to a woman who had not shown up yet. The police officers informed Manoogian that the hotel security was asking him to leave. Manoogian courteously agreed to comply, and no charges were pressed against him.
Before leaving the hotel, Manoogian asked Aroustamian to read the reports he had handed him earlier. Right before Manoogian left the premises, Aroustamian shook his hand and made the following threats
TA: Yes, yes. But behave yourself, behave yourself!
AM: But I do behave. I am very well-behaved.
TA: You’ll get yourself into a lot of trouble. You will get very unlucky!
AM: I will not get unlucky.
TA: I am telling you!
When Manoogian arrived home, his usually energetic son was clearly upset and asked if he could sleep next to him that night. “I knew that this was a sign that he was traumatized after seeing so many security personnel and police officers threatening his father and him. Though this experience was very upsetting for Alex and me, I think now I have a better understanding of how our brothers and sisters in Armenia feel about unjust prosecution, and what adverse psychological effects it must have on their children,” Manoogian said. He is going to set up an appointment with a psychologist to see if his son has been scarred by the dishonesty of the Artsakh representative, Robert Avetisyan, and the security officers who carried out what he deemed to be a heinous act.
“It is ironic that the Artsakh representative would endanger the well-being of martyred Artsakh hero Saribek Martirosyan’s grandson and Armenian national hero Shahan Natalie’s great grandson with malice aforethought. Had his sinister scheme not been foiled, my son, Alex, would have experienced the additional trauma of being forcefully separated from me to spend an indefinite period under the surveillance of the Department of Child and Family Services,” Manoogian concluded.
Robert Avetisyan’s grudge against Ara K. Manoogian is likely to have originated after the former familiarized himself with “To Donate Or Not to Donate,” which he had openly criticized two years ago, on November 26, 2011, as a direct threat and attack on the people of Artsakh. Avetisyan’s discontent had been further kindled by Manoogian’s question about the Fund and corruption in Artsakh at “Homeland and Diaspora: From Challenges to Solutions,” the first ANC Grassroots Conference, which took place on that same day (watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUPpAb2sIe0).
Judging by his unpredictable reactions and disproportionate retaliatory responses, Manoogian calls on the leadership of Artsakh, particularly Bako Sahakyan, President of Artsakh, to immediately recall and decommission Robert Avetisyan, stripping him of any future opportunity to serve in the government.
Ara K. Manoogian is a human rights activist representing the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation, Inc. in Artsakh and Armenia; a Fellow of the Washington, D.C.-based Policy Forum Armenia (PFA); creator of www.thetruthmustbetold.com.