"Aper" Harutyunyan (blue shirt)
had his day in court.
The trial in the murder of journalist Tigran
Naghdalyan resumed Tuesday with anticipation of
testimony from Hovhaness "Aper" Harutyunyan.
Harutyunyan is considered a crucial link between
Naghdalyan's killer and the source who ordered
his assassination. Harutyunyan is also a relative
of Armen Sargsyan, a defendant who is accused
of hiring the killing.
But as a full and tense Courtroom awaited the
testimony, the session in fact began with a woman
escorted by a policeman approaching Judge Seribek
Aramyan demanding to be heard.
It became known that the woman was Gayane Melkonyan,
Harutyunyan's wife and a scheduled witness. (The
law prohibits witnesses who have not testified
from being present in court when others are testifying.
But prosecutor Zelim Tadevosyan, without announcement,
brought Melkonyan inside.)
Melkonyan gave the judge a note, said to have
been written to her by Harutyunyan six months
ago, while he was in hiding from law enforcement.
"I've been keeping silence for six months
but I can't anymore. I know Aper doesn't want
me to speak but I have to," Melkonyan said.
She also said that she has been threatened and
has received anonymous phone calls and was weary
of the circumstance and wanted to testify immediately.
Judge Aramyan told her that she should have notified
police about the threats. Still, she demanded
to be questioned out of turn.
Prosecutors and two defense attorneys conferred
and agreed to have her questioned. Three other
attorneys objected to the change of schedule,
and Harutyunyan himself petitioned the judge to
not allow his wife to testify, but was rebuked
by the judge. Harutyunyan was in tears after his
objections were denied.
Prosectuor Tadevosyan issued a motion to hear
defendant Sargsyan's opinion before allowing Melkonyan
to testify. (Sargsyan is the brother of the late
Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, who was assassinated
in the October 27, 1999 parliament killings. Click
here to see previous stories.)
After the court consulted with the Sargsyan defense,
Melkonyan was allowed to speak.
"Being an Armenian woman I am obliged to
protect my husband," she began. "Aper
told me he had nothing to do with Naghdalyan's
murder and asked me to find out from Armen (Sargsyan)
what he must do."
Harutyunyan sent the letter from his hiding place.
"If everything continues the way it is
now, if they want me to be the one who ordered
the murder, then tell Greta (Sargsyans' mother)
that she doesn't put easy cushions under my head.
Tell Greta that I cannot stay (in hiding) for
a long time. Tell Grigor (defendant Grigor Petrosyan)
to say that he knows nothing. Don't tell even
Araratsis (residents of Ararat city) about my
From this note Harutyunyan's wife concluded that
Armen Sargsyan had ordered the murder. According
to her, her husband told her before leaving the
house that he was involved in Naghdalyan's murder
because of Armen Sargsyan and: "now I'm bearing
the dirt Armen had dropped."
The witness said that she visited Ararat two
times and met with Greta Sargsyan asking her to
hire a lawyer for her husband. During her visit
to Yerablur (where Vazgen Sargsyan is buried)
she also talked with Aram Sargsyan (another brother,
and former presidential candidate), however, she
hadn't gotten any help.
According to Melkonyan, during the time that
Harutyunyan was hiding Greta Sargsyan and her
relatives had told her that Armen Sargsyan's response
was: "Let him try to not be caught and if
he is caught, let him shoulder the crime".
Gayane Melkonyan also confirmed the testimonies
she had given during preliminary investigation
and then she answered questions asked by the participants
of the trial, including Armen Sargsyan.
Sargsyan questioned Melkonyan, asking:
"Why on March 5 in Yerablur didn't you come
to me to say that 'Aper says he is bearing the
dirt Armen had dropped', but instead you approached
Melkonyan responded: "I didn't approach
you as I didn't want to cause harm to you."
When Harutyunyan finally did get his chance to
testify Wednesday, he refused (although he had
been willing to testify before his wife gave her
"Take my testimonies given during preliminary
investigation as a basis. I'm not going to answer
any questions," he told the court.
During videotaped interrogation on March 21,
Harutyunyan told investigators that he knew from
(defendant) Gegham Shahbazyan about plans of killing
"a TV worker".
Harutyunyan testified that he visited Armen Sargsyan
three times for money and in total he received
$60,000. He gave $44,000 Shahbazyan and kept the
rest because Shahbazyan was in debt to him.
On the video tape during the whole questioning
defendant Harutyunyan appeared relaxed, he was
smoking and he was offered coffee.
Investigator: Whose idea was it
to kill Tigran Naghdalyan?
Harutyunyan: In the beginning it
was Liova's (Harutyunyan) and later Armen's.
Investigator: Were you going to
Harutyunyan: I didn't know him and
I had never had any plans for killing him. I also
wasn't interested in the money at all. Only proceeding
from family sentiments I took part in it. For
many years I have never asked them for money.
Investigator: What do you
think is your guilt? What was your part?
Harutyunyan: You know my part better
than me. It turns out to be I was a connecting
link. I took money then I brought money, then
I gave money.
Investigator: Didn't Armen Sargsyan
tell you why he was going to kill him?
Harutyunyan: He didn't talk about
that (in another published testimony he said that
Shahbazyan had told him that Naghdalyan had had
a hand in the October 27 incident).
Investigator: He was going to kill
a man. Wasn't it interesting for you, why?
Harutyunyan: I don't know, they
had already arranged about it, what could I
When court resumes Tuesday, Armen Sargsyan will
have a chance to question his accusers, afterwhich
he will testify.