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 August 1, 2003 

In Search of Answers: Trial begins in murder of Tigran Naghdalyan

Armen Sargsyan is being held in the death of TV journalist Tigran Naghdalyan.

Trial opened Tuesday in the murder of Tigran Naghdalyan, chairman of the Board of Directors of Armenian Public Television.

Naghdalyan was shot to death last December 28 as he was leaving his parents' home on Zakyan Street in Yerevan.

The high-profile murder made big noise in Armenia's political community. Naghdalyan, a journalist, had been a strong supporter of President Robert Kocharyan, and was in fact appointed to his position by the President. His killing came only weeks before campaigning began for the presidential elections, and drew speculation that the murder was ordered by opposition parties.

A further theory emerged that Naghdalyan was in fact killed because he had valuable information concerning the October 27, 1999 Parliament assassinations, and was to be called to give testimony that would have suggested a complicity in those murders by certain members of the Government.

Businessman Armen Sargsyan, brother of slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan is among 13 charged with the murder. It is alleged that Armen Sargsyan paid $75,000 to have Naghdalyan killed.

The General Prosecutor's office announced that it had identified suspects in the killing just hours before results of the preliminary presidential elections were posted.

Ten days later Armen Sargsyan was named as a suspect, prompting his brother, former Prime Minister, Aram, to release a statement insisting on his brother's innocence.

The opening day of the Naghdalyan trial drew a large crowd that included the victim's father, sister, widow and colleagues.

Also on hand were politicians that included leaders of the "Justice" bloc (former presidential candidate) Stepan Demirchyan, Shavarsh Kocharyan, Arshak Sadoyan and Raffi Hovannisian.

"I am sure that they (those accused of the murder) are the people who committed the crime," said the victim's father, Hovhannes Naghdalyan. "I, myself, saw the killer walking around in our yard. And he confirmed that he had been there."

Among the charged is John Harutyunyan -- one of four defendents from Karabakh -- who is believed to be the man Naghdalyan's father says he saw in his yard.

"Concerning the one who ordered the murder, I can't say anything yet until Armen Sargsyan talks about that. I will talk about that later if it would be necessary. Of course, I know who they are but I can't talk about that today," Naghdlayan said.

According to the indictment, the motive of the murder was "mercenary considerations" and "Tigran Naghdalyan's official activities as well as his TV reports concerning the October 27 incident". But the victim's father is not convinced of the Parliament killings connection.

"I can't say in full yet as they are talking about some tape and groundlessly linking it to the incident of October 27," Naghdalyan said.

Former Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan (right), the brother of Vazgen and Armen , speaks with another (former presidential candidate) Aram Sargsyan. In the background Raffi Hovanissian speaks with runner up to the presidency, Stepan Demirchyan.

Attorney Robert Grigoryan, representing the rights of Armen Sargsyan at the trial, believes that the motive of murder, according to the documents of the case, is supposition and it can't be taken as fact.

"There are no proofs confirming the motive of the murder in the criminal case," says the attorney.

Aram Sargsyan appeared at the trial to re-state his belief in his brother's innocence, saying that Armen Sargsyan "has nothing to do with politics".

The general court atmosphere drew a comparison by Aram Sargsyan to the October 27 trial of Nairy Hunanyan and others.

"My brother is put in jail next to the prisoners of the October 27 case. Putting Armen right in this hall, at the very place where Hunanyan was sitting reminds me that some people sick in the head," he said.

Russian attorney Oleg Yunoshev (representing the Sargsyan family interests) was the first to make a connection between Nagdhalyan's murder and the October 27 incident. Yunoshev claimed that if Naghdalyan, a potential witness in the case, had already given testimony in that trial, he would not have been killed.

At the time, Yunoshev was criticized for his dramatic claim, and questions arose as to why it came as the election campaign was starting.

Now, however, it appears that a possible connection will be an intriquing argument when the Naghdalyan trial resumes next week.



According to Agnes
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