Prosecutors in the case of members of the Jehovah's Witnesses A. Makvetsyan and S. Grigoryan against the Armenian Apostolic Church Holy Trinity priest Ter Yesayi Artenyan, are presenting fresh charges against A. Makvetsyan.
News.am reports the prosecutors are charging the Jehovah's Witness with offense of disrespectful behavior against the Armenian Church and the Armenian society.
According to ArmeniaNow, the case involving the Jehovah's Witnesses and the priest of the Armenian church began in May, when the two Jehovah's Witnesses were accused of attacking the priest. The Armenian Apostolic Church Holy Trinity priest Ter Yesayi Artenyan, had claimed that on Sunday May 15, he asked two Jehovah's Witnesses who were preaching close to his church premises in Yerevan to leave but rather, they yelled obscenities at him and threatened him with physical violence.
Spokesman of the Jehovah's Witnesses Tigran Harutyunyan, in a letter to ArmeniaNow , however, denied the priest's story, saying the Jehovah's Witnesses were preaching at some distance from the priest's church premises when someone in "plainclothes" approached them saying that was his "territory" and that they should leave. The man, according to the Witnesses, tried to take a picture of them but they objected. One of the Jehovah's Witnesses attempted to prevent him by covering the camera lens with his palm. According to the spokesman of the Jehovah's Witnesses, at that point,
“Priest Artenyan, who grew angry because of all of that, stretched for Andranik Makvetsyan’s face, began to offend and curse him (remembering the latter’s parents, etc.), making threats and demanding that they call their ‘boss.’”
The Armenian Church priest Fr. Yesayi Artenyan, in an interview with ArmeniaNow, said when he tried to take a photograph of the Jehovah's Witnesses, one of them hit him on the hand. The priest said:
“I simply turned to the police so that they give me protection, because alone I can no longer deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses preaching in the vicinity of the church.”
Father Artenyan told ArmeniaNow that he did not ask the police to institute criminal proceedings against the Witnesses.
AP report says, "Although Armenia's constitution provides for freedom of religion, it is difficult for new groups to register and the rules favor the dominant Armenian Apostolic Church."
Armenian society's attitude towards most minority religious groups is ambivalent. Though many Armenians are not religious, there is a strong link between Armenian ethnicity and the Armenian Church. Armenian laws restrict religious freedom of minority groups. The Armenian Law on Freedom of Conscience prohibits "proselytizing," but does not define it.
AP also reports Jehovah's Witnesses serve prison sentences in Armenia for conscientious objection to military service.