Armen Aramyan

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On April 14, 2021, law enforcement officers in Moscow arrested Armen Aramyan, an editor at the independent online student-run magazine DOXA, after raiding the outlet’s office and the apartments of Aramyan and three other editors. He is being held in pretrial detention under house arrest.

DOXA is an online magazine covering higher education issues; it was originally affiliated with the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, but in 2019 that school withdrew its financing, and the outlet is now run independently by students from various universities, according to reports

During the raids, officers confiscated laptops, phones, and filming equipment from DOXA’s office, and laptops and phones from the journalists’ apartments, according to news reports.

Aramyan’s lawyer, Leonid Solovyov, told CPJ in a phone interview that officers arrested him at the outlet’s office. He said that the raid was conducted illegally, as there were no third-party witnesses present. 

When Solovyov arrived at the office and identified himself as Aramyan’s lawyer, an investigator refused to let him in and a law enforcement officer repeatedly shoved him, the lawyer told CPJ.

Officers took Aramyan to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, where he was held for about two and a half hours and then he and the three other DOXA editors—Alla Gutnikova, Natalia Tyshkevich, and Vladimir Metelkin—were charged with inciting minors to participate in “unlawful activities that might be dangerous,” according to Solovyov and those reports. 

If convicted, they could face up to three years behind bars under Russian law.

Aramyan and the other editors were then sent to the Basmanny District Court, which ordered that the four be placed under home detention until their trial, according to those reports and Solovyov. During house arrest, the defendants can only leave their homes for interrogations and for two-hour-long walks each day, reports said. 

The editors were also banned from using the internet or other communications tools and from interacting with the other defendants in the case, according to those sources.

On June 9, the Basmanny District Court extended the home detention orders until September 14, and on September 10, again prolonged them until October 14, according to news reports. On October 1, the court extended the detention until November 22, and on November 9, the court extended the four defendants’ detentions for six months, according to news reports.

While under home detention, on September 29, police brought Aramyan to the Tverskoye Police Station, where they also charged him with organizing an unapproved political event, and the Tveskoy Court convicted him of that charge and imposed a fine of 20,000 rubles (US$282), news reports said.

The Investigative Committee officers told the journalist that the inciting minors charges stemmed from a video DOXA published in January 2021, amid nationwide protests in support of opposition figure Alexei Navalny; the video, titled “They Can’t Defeat Youth,” expressed support for students who had been punished by their educational institutions for participating in rallies, according to news reports. DOXA later deleted the video on the order of Russian state media regulator Roskomnadzor, according to those reports.

DOXA editor Mstislav Grivachyov told CPJ via phone that DOXA is operational as of October 2021, and continues covering youth issues, educational reforms, and university life.

CPJ called the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, but an official who answered refused to comment.