testified that he was contracted to kill Tigran Naghdalyan.
The third session of the Tigran Naghdalyan murder trial finished this
week, with testimony from the man who previously admitted committing the murder.
television journalist Naghdalyan was shot to death last December 28. At the time
of his death he was chairman of the board of directors of the Public Television
and Radio of Armenia, a post appointed by President Robert Kocharyan.
murder has been linked by some to his expected appearance in court to testify
in the trial of Nairy Hunanyan and others charged with the assassinations of seven
government officials, October 27, 1999.
John Harutyunyan, in his mid-30s,
a father of four and resident of the town of Martuni, Nagorno Karabakh, appeared
calm in an otherwise tense courtroom where he is charged as Naghdalyan's killer.
are charged with complicity in the crime, including Armen Sargsyan, brother of
slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, one of the victims of the October 1999 killings
Sargsyan is accused of having ordered Naghdalyan's death
and allegedly offering $75,000 to have the murder carried out. Other defendants
have fully or partially admitted guilt. Sargsyan has maintained that he is innocent.
a full courtroom, Harutyunyan said he had a meeting last September with an acquaintance,
Gegham Shahbazyan, in Hadrut, Karabakh.
"He offered for me to commit
a murder and I agreed," Harutyunyan said.
The target was a journalist
named Tigran, Harutyunyan testified, and elaborating on the subsequent events
told the court:
Harutyunyan and defendant Felix Arustamyan came to Yerevan
and then to Ararat to a meeting in a small restaurant owned by defendant Liova
Harutyunyan (Armen Sargsyan is godfather to Liova Harutyunyan's children).
the meeting defendant Gegham Shahbazyan said that Liova Harutyunyan was offering
$30,000 for a contract killing.
"He told me: 'There is a journalist,
who is writing wrong things and he is an organizer of the October 27 incident.
He gave false documents to Nairy Hunanyan and he is making programs against Sargsyan's
family. Can you do that?'" John Harutyunyan testified.
that I could, but that 30 (thousand) isn't enough, I need 100 (thousand). Gegham
said 50 (thousand)."
Two days later John Harutyunyan again met Shahbazyan
at the restaurant, where he learned that Liova Harutyunyan turned down the bid
of $100,000. Shahbazyan said he would take care of financing the murder.
Sargsyan and Shahbazyan were excluded from hearing John Harutyunyan's testimony.)
He spent 15 days stalking Naghdalyan and once had
an opportunity to shoot him, but lost his nerve. Then he was ordered to kill the
journalist before New Year's Day. He said he was not aware of Naghdalyan's position
or of his stature as a widely-known journalist.
On December 28 John Harutyunyan
followed Tigran Naghdalyan. The killer hid in the entrance to Zakyan Street No.
8 where he killed Naghdalyan with one shot to the head.
On December 30,
John Harutyunyan testified, Shahbazyan paid him $19,000 and took him to Karabakh.
He never got any more money.
Several times John Harutyunyan's testimony
was interrupted by questions from attorneys. He refused to answer all of them
saying: "I don't answer questions. That's it. I've said what I've said. I
don't say I haven't done it, but I refuse to answer questions."
Harutyunyan said he will only answer questions after the other defendants testify.
only question he answered was one posed by the judge. Asked whether the crime
had been committed with a "TT" pistol, John Harutyunyan answered yes.
said John Harutyunyan's testimony in court contained "serious differences"
from testimony he gave during the preliminary investigation. In the preliminary
investigation, John Harutyunyan is said to have indicated that he understood that
Naghdalyan's murder was ordered by relatives of Vazgen Sargsyan.
testified that published statements signed by him confirming the prosecutors'
account of his preliminary testimony were not his.
"I didn't see and
read testimonies. I just signed a document they gave me," he told the court.
statement was met with applause by relatives of Sargsyan in the courtroom, which
started a quarrel with supporters of the Naghdalyan family. The tense atmosphere
became more heated in a hallway next to the courtroom until police stepped in
to disperse the crowd.
During a previous session, defendant Armen Sargsyan
appealed to his supporters in the courtroom to remain calm and not offend or harm
anyone. "You won't help me by doing that, you will only cause problems for
me," he said.
The next session of the trial is scheduled for September