a court filled with security, John Harutyunyan
listened as his guilty verdict was read.
As Tuesday's guilty verdict came down against
Armen Sargsyan, reaction was sharp and swift over
the 15-year sentence of a man known most for having
Political commentator of "Noyan Tapan"
news agency David Petrosyan, who in March predicted
that Sargsyan would be found guilty, says the
verdict is politically motivated.
"This is a political revenge against (opposition
party leader) Aram Sargsyan, as he is a radical
opposition, and has no intentions to back down.
And this is a way to exert pressure upon him"
Petrosyan predicts that international organizations
will declare Armen Sargsyan a political prisoner.
"They are ready to do that now. This trial
and its consequences will create problems for
Armen Sargsyan was found guilty of ordering the
murder last December 28 of Tigran Naghdalyan,
chairman of the board of directors of the Public
Television and Radio of Armenia.
sister, Karine, told reporters the sentencing
was not fair, but expected.
Prosecutors had charged that Sargsyan was offering
$75,000 to have Naghdalyan killed. His motivation,
they said included the journalist "mocking"
the death of Sargsyan's more famous brother, Prime
Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, who was one of six government
leaders murdered in Parliament on October 27,
In dramatic testimony of his innocence last week,
Sargsyan swore on his teenage son's life that
if he should be found guilty he should face a
life sentence for the crime.
Sargsyan received the same sentence as confessed-killer
John Harutyunyan, who testified that he shot Naghdalyan
to death outside the journalist's parents' home,
on the promise of getting $50,000 for the hired
Charges connected to the murder were brought
against 13 defendants, none of which -- including
Harutyunyan - directly linked Sargsyan to the
killing. All 13 were found guilty; six were released
for time served and five others received sentences
ranging from seven to 12 years for conspiracy
"No one can prove to the public that the
trial was fair. One has to understand Naghdalyan's
murder within the context of neutralizing the
witnesses of the October 27 case. However that
version was never considered," Albert Bazeyan
said during a parliament meeting on Wednesday.
In other words Bazeyan, the head of Republic party
(to which Aram Sargsyan belongs) suggests, as
many have, that Naghdalyan was killed because
of information he might have given in testimony
in the October 27 trial.
Bazeyan invited the public and officials to meet
today (Friday) at the Cinema House to discuss
what he calls "legal and political sides"
in both the Naghdalyan and the October 27 cases.
Bazeyan called the verdict a "political
decision" and accused President Robert Kocharyan
of having ordered the outcome of the trial.
While opposition party supporters claim Sargsyan's
sentence is meant to send a message to his family
(Aram Sargsyan was one candidate who stood against
President Robert Kocharyan in last winter's presidential
election), the victim's family were upset that
the verdict was too light.
Sargsyan heard the court hand down a 15-year
"I am completely dissatisfied by the verdict,
but it was not a surprise for me," said Karine
Naghdalyan, sister of the murdered journalist.
"The client and the executer should serve
Karine Naghdalyan is sure that the murder was
ordered, but expressed a doubt about Armen Sargsyan's
"I am not so sure about that. I consent
to the fact that he might have been an accomplice,
but this does not commute his guilt," she
Naghdalyan was asked who, if not Sargsyan, she
thought had ordered her brother's murder.
"I think everybody knows who the clients
are, there is no need to mention names,"
Court observers and journalists at the trial
speculated on who Naghdalyan might have been referring
to, but no one had a sense of who she intended
in her reference.
Sargsyan, himself, had nothing to say after Judge
Saribek Aramyan read the sentence. Sargsyan stood
passively as the verdict was read and by demeanor
it appeared that he had resolved himself to his
From the beginning of the hearing to the reading
of the verdict, Harutyunyan, who throughout the
trial had interacted with journalists, appeared
upset and disturbed. Normally clean shaven, he
had not shaved for his final appearance in court.
He and defendant Felix Arustamyan loudly protested
their sentences. In earlier testimony Arustamyan
had said that they had both agreed to take responsibility
for the killing in exchange for the money and
on the promise that they would only have to serve
eight years for the crime.
"The whole process of the trial assured
me that this is the only verdict we expect. Not
because of the evidence, but because of the disposition
(of the court)" said Sargsyan's lawyer Robert
Grigoryan again criticized the court for not
allowing testimony that he says would have shown
inconsistencies in Harutyunyan's description of
the murder. According to Grigoryan, forensic research
proves that Naghdalyan was shot in the nape of
the neck, not from the front, as Harutyunayan
Aram Sargsyan (who succeeded his brother as Prime
Minister and served for six months) did not attend
the verdict hearing but spoke out to imply that
Armen Sargsyan was wrongly charged.
"It was not proved in the court that Armen
Sargsyan is the client of the murder. I consider
this to be the most important fact," he said.
"The problem is different. There is no judicial
system in the country, and it would be meaningless
to expect justice from a court in a country having
this kind of system."
Unlike his brothers, 41-year-old Armen Sargsyan
has never been in politics. He is a businessman
who owns shares in several Armenian companies
and is head of a food processing factory.
Harutyunyan, 32, of Martuni, Karabakh, is an
unemployed father of four and also cares for the
families of two brothers who were killed in the
war in Karabakh. He served in he same unit with
Arustamyan during the war.
Sargsyan lawyers say they plan to appeal the
verdict, adding that they have little expectation
of a reversal, but that the appeal is a necessary
step toward being heard by the European Court.