A dozen Armenians from Los Angeles, including an Orange County businessman and his family, braved the cold Wednesday to continue a 2 1/2-week Soviet Embassy protest, seeking the release of six political prisoners and an end to the martial law imposed in Soviet Armenia after November’s devastating earthquake.
Paruir Hayrikyan, a Soviet exile and founder of the Los Angeles-based Alliance for Self-Determination of Armenia, led the group, whose members waved Armenian flags and chanted “shame, shame, shame” at embassy officials.
Protesters criticized the Soviet’s post-quake arrest of four leaders of the Armenian democratic movement, including two Armenian members of the Supreme Soviet. “We are helping to support the people in Armenia,” Hayrikyan said. “Soon there will be free elections in Armenia. Martial law disturbs these free elections.”
A spokesman at the embassy, which also serves as a Soviet diplomatic residence, said “loud behavior” from the Armenian protest “is just a harassment for the (embassy) families and their children.”
Hayrikyan said he was a Soviet prisoner for 14 years before he was exiled in July to Ethiopia, then granted asylum in the United States. He said thousands of Armenians had gathered in their capital city of Yerevan after the quake to choose him as their American “spokesman and representative ambassador.”
He met with embassy officials in January to present demands--including that the Soviets recognize Armenian desires for self-determination, return Armenian children orphaned by last year’s quake and close a partially shut and damaged nuclear power plant in Armenia--that have not been met.
The Soviet government, however, announced last week that it was closing down the 12-year-old nuclear power station outside of Yerevan because of the fear of earthquake damage, the official news agency Tass said.