eight dead leaders were Speaker of the National
Assembly Karen Demirchyan and Prime Minister
On October 27, 1999 - four years ago next Monday
- five armed terrorists attacked the National
Assembly of Armenia, turning the usual Wednesday
meeting of the Government into a horror chamber.
Shouts, curses and the deafening noise of automatic
weapons ended only when Armenia's leadership had
been cut down to a pitiful sight of crumpled dead
and dying bodies.
Among eight dead leaders were Speaker of the National
Assembly Karen Demirchyan and Prime Minister Vazgen
Sargsyan. Four deputies were wounded.
While videotape of the slaughter was broadcast
worldwide, Armenian society recoiled from what
it saw and a single question united the surviving
leadership and its citizens: "What are we
going to do now?"
Fifteen months later trial of the assassins began
to an information-hungry public that also had
a blood-thirst for justice or even revenge.
Media covered every detail of the trial, while
the courtroom was always filled and the courthouse
yard crowded with the curious.
Soon, however, it became apparent that this would
be no short trail, and the wave of public interest
turned from loud and crowded demonstrations to
half-empty court sessions and calm anger toward
coverage of the trial.
"Ordinary television viewers are subjected
to informational terror," deputy of NA Aghasi
Arshakyan was indignantly saying in the beginning
of the trial.
"Conduct a monitoring of our mass media and
you will see that they mention murderer Hunanyan
more often than the president or any other political
The viewing audience, who was angry with behavior
of the main defendant Nairy Hunanyan, was making
phone calls to TV stations, demanding to shield
society from the necessity of seeing every day
the self-contented look of his face.
But half empty court rooms and anger can not be
regarded as a reflection of society's true attitude
towards that notorious trial. Society dropped
its expectations of justice. And hatred toward
the criminals reduced to smoldering anger. And
the trial that has stretched nearly to a third
year became something of a political barometer.
Political parties and fractions split over the
trial into blocs. In spring 2001 a temporary parliamentary
commission was created just after the beginning
of court examination. The commission was to look
into the death of Norair Yeghiazaryan, one of
the defendants who died under suspicious circumstances
while in detention.
But instead of investigating Yeghiazaryan's death,
the commission became a forum for attempts to
impeach President Robert Kocharyan, on the grounds
that he failed in his constitutional duty to be
a guarantor for the security of high-ranking officials.
In fact the process of mixing trial with policy
started since the first days. To some extent it
was unavoidable taking into account the nature
of the crimes and their impact on the political
administration of the country.
And today, four years later, the trial is still
a political flashpoint and the courtroom itself
a theater for political propaganda.
And those who once complained that the trail was
dragging on too long are now saying that it is
being brought to an artificially speedy conclusion
for the same, politically-motivated, reasons.