Urgent Action Appeal: Please help Ashot to stay in the UK

Ashot is a truly remarkable and courageous, as well as a kind and generous man. He has been living in my house for the last 9 months, so I have got to know him very well. His courageous act may well cost him his life, unless we can save him from deportation. :

Urgent Action Appeal

Please help Ashot to stay in the UK

39-year-old Ashot Aghababyan from Armenia is currently being held in detention and is due to be forcibly removed from the UK on Sunday 5th February Flight number BD 933 to Yerevan, 15:05 (Home Office Ref: A1435279)

Ashot was an important member of the opposition political party in Armenia and was assistant bodyguard to Albert Bazeyan, one of its leaders and the former Mayor of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city. Due to his political involvement with the party he was arrested several times and warned about his activities.

 

In 2008, Ashot publicly accused the then President, Robert Kocharyan, of being behind the 1999 attack on the Armenian Parliament that killed the Prime Minister and seven other high-ranking officials. See herehere andhere for descriptions of police brutality during the demonstrations, and ill treatment in custody in Armenia, by Human Rights Watch.  Following this, his home was raided and he was forced to go into hiding with his wife and child. He was only able to escape from Armenia because relatives and friends paid a large bribe for him to fly out of the country.

According to Ashot, “I cannot go back to my own country, Armenia, until the government changes. This is because in 2008 I denounced the current prime minister and his allies as murderers to a crowd of about 10,000 anti-Government demonstrators in Liberty Square through a megaphone. I am the only person to have named them publicly, and to say that I could prove their guilt. As soon as I did this, my life was in danger and I fled the country.

Ashot is a man of high principles, great integrity and selflessness. Through his courageous denunciation of a corrupt Government, he has put the interests of his country before his own and he has paid the price, having to leave his country and be separated from his wife and child, for whose safety he also fears.

Country Expert Robert Chenciner, a Senior Asscoiate at St Antony’s College Oxford and an Honorary Member of Russian Academy of Sciences, supports Ashot’s asylum claim, which is based on his fear of persecution for his political opinion, writing that his statements are plausible and that “he continues to be at risk… They are likely to want to silence him by putting him in prison on false charges and the corrupt judiciary and police would be unwilling or unable to protect him.”

This is backed up by Human Rights Watch’s 2009 report “Democracy on Rocky Ground” gives numerous examples of police brutality in Armenia at the 2008 rally and in subsequent custody, describing abuse and torture of detainees, and unsanitary and cramped detention facilities with insufficient access to food and drink. Ill treatment of detainees was also noted by Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture in 2010. Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report on Armenia reports that “there has been no meaningful accountability for the excessive use of force by law enforcement. … Torture and ill-treatment in police custody persist and the government has failed to effectively investigate a troubling number of deaths in custody.  The report also documents continued harassment of opposition figures and critical media.

Ashot has letters from high-ranking opposition party officials confirming his status and connection to the party – and a summons for his arrest. His father has been harassed and his brother has lost his job because of Ashot’s political activities. He is terrified of what would happen to him on his return. The Country Expert writes, “The Appellant is plausibly scared that if he were returned to Armenia, and detained, then he would be at risk of violent abuse in the poor prison conditions. Also that the greatest risk of abuse is during pretrial detention…the Summons is exceptional confirmation of the seriousness of the risk.”

Ashot has not had a fair hearing as he could not speak any English when he first sought asylum in the UK – the interpreters provided for him were from Russia then a Persian Armenian speaker, a very different language from his Western Armenian language – and these resulted in many mistakes in his case and rejection of his asylum claim. The Country Expert criticises the fact that Ashot was given an inappropriate interpreter with mutually unintelligible languages.

Since coming to the UK, Ashot has been deeply involved with Crossings, a cross-cultural, community music project based in Tyneside, as well as with other educational and cultural organisations such as Action Foundation, The Millin Centre and the Comfrey Project; he has also made many friends in the local community. He has had numerous letters of support from these organisations and friends. Here are a few short quotes from 18 members of Crossings that testify to the love and respect he enjoys there. ‘Ashot is more than a brother to me,’ ‘Ashot touched everybody’s heart by his kindness and his generosity.’ ‘he helps everyone in Crossing and had help me personally.’ ‘Ashot is my one good friend’,’ he is my best friend’, ‘He is a dedicated member of Crossings and his voluntary work is invaluable to the organisation.’’ ‘I really will miss him.’ ‘He is a hard working man who has brought laughter and smiles to all of us at Crossings.’ ‘He is always there for other people’.’Our group will not be the same without him. He always goes an extra mile to help other people.’ ‘It would be tragic to lose him.’And finally, a fitting  word of advice to the UK authorities from an 11 year old member, ‘Think again and think deeper.’

In the words of Crossings Chairperson, Lucy Fairley, “Ashot is one of the most likeable people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and I have immense respect for his integrity and ethics. I have never once seen him take advantage of anyone or seek personal gain at others’ expense; he is always thoughtful, honourable and fair-minded in his dealings with everyone. I beg (you) to do the right thing by Ashot, as he has so selflessly done for his country, and offer him the asylum which he so richly deserves.”

We urgently ask you to contact the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and British Midland International (BMI) to demand that the removal be cancelled and Ashot be allowed to stay in the UK. Ashot’s flight is at 15:05 on Sunday so please don’t delay.

Use the attached sample letters or write your own, but please don’t forget to include Ashot’s Home Office reference number (A1435279).

Contact the Home Secretary:
Rt. Hon Theresa May, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Office
2 Marsham Street

London
SW1 4DF
Fax: +44 (0)20 7035 4745
Email: mayt@parliament.uk
UKBApublicenquiries@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk
CITTO@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Contact British Midland International:
bmi
Chief Executive – Wolfgang Prockschauer. He can be reached through his assistant: Tracey Janes tracey.james@flybmi.com

Head of Customer Relations – Ian Bloor: ian.bloor@flybmi.com
Donington Hall
Castle Donington
Derby
DE74 2SB
Fax: +44 (0)1709 314993
Phone: +44 (0)1332 854000 (Head Office)
0844 8484 888 / +44 (0)1332 64 818  (Reservations and General Enquiries)

Please copy these emails to Ashot’s MP:

Chi Onwurah – email: chi.onwurah.mp@parliament.uk, and anthony.bone@parliament.uk

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