- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 October 24, 2003 

October 27: A few minutes of terror, a few years of asking why

Self-acclaimed hero Hunanyan is reading his regular epistle to the nation.

After nearly three years, and near the fourth anniversary of their notoriety, the trial of Nairy Hunanyan and others may be drawing to a close.

On October 27, 1999, Hunanyan led four accomplices in an armed attack on the National Assembly, shooting to death Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, Assembly Speaker Karen Demirchyan and six other members of the Government.

The guilt of the assassins is hardly in question, as their shooting spree was captured on camera by television services broadcasting the parliament session.

Closing arguments have begun, after a week of more contentious debate between the prosecution and lawyers representing families of the victims.

Begun in February of 2001, the trial is believed to be the longest in the history of Armenia, and perhaps of the region.

The trial has had few moments of real courtroom drama, but plenty absurd theater, including Hunanyan's attempt last winter to register as a candidate for President. And last month, the former journalist/self-acclaimed hero, entered a motion to start impeachment proceedings against President Robert Kocharyan.

After early sessions were met with filled galleys and picketers outside, public interests in the trail waned. Recent sessions, however have again been filled, as the public and the legal community anticipate a conclusion. Some were drawn to the trial following last week's oppositional party rally in which authorities were accused of trying to end the trial to avoid testimony that would implicate Kocharyan in the parliament killings.

Interests has also been piqued as evidence and testimony in the Hunanyan trial have overlapped with the trial of murdered television journalist Tigran Naghdalyan.

Hunanyan has played to his new audience with sensational claims. And with a poem, part of which reads:

Here I come to confess
And let Hayk Patriarch's holy right hand be witness.
I ain't gonna leave you alone with fate's impulse,
Alone with bunch of lustful vandals,
I ain't gonna let you be dishonored by mischievous irony
And become its hostage and small wally (toy)

Here I come to wipe your tears away for ever
To exterminate your everyday needs for ever
Òî straighten your backs
To relieve the pain your faces are twisted with
To clear the blur your minds are conquered with
To establish just order of the law

And let my words turn into manna…
... let my work become bright example
And be in front of your eyes ample

Nairy Hunanyan
Year 4496 of the True Armenian Era
Mother City Yerevan

If in the beginning of the trial Hunanyan was perceived as complex and intense, and was of some interest, today he is perceived as an ordinary murderer and he realizes the change of perception.

Through much of the trial Hunanyan tried to portray himself as a patriot, a revolutionary, a messenger of the people. But as the trial perhaps draws to a close, he has dropped his hero pretensions and paragraph by paragraph denies charges brought against him

The trial was suspended for six months, from January 15 to June 15.

Official information says it was suspended for the first three months due to illness of Uzunyan and later due to the illness of defendant Vram Galstyan. Again according to official information, Galstyan was being treated for heart problems. He claims, however, that he was forcedly injected with a drug that induced a nervous disorder.

Opponents of Kocharyan say it was no coincidence that the judge became "sick" one week before the presidential election campaign officially began. Nor, they say, was it coincidence that Galstyan's health improved only after the conclusion of parliamentary elections in May.

When court resumed, the State's prosecution team of three was joined by Koriun Piloyan who made a motion to shorten the witness list to those who have already been questioned.

The prosecution argued that testimony concerning possible conspirators in the October 27 incident is part of the "abstract" portion of the case and that the remaining witnesses have bearing only on the killings and do not provide evidence of a conspiracy.

The list of witnesses contains 129 names, only 28 of whom have testified. The judge ruled in favor of the prosecution.

Relatives of Sargsyan and Demirchyan and the widow of assassinated Vice Speaker Yuri Bakhshyan are against the judge's decision.

"It is a political decision. The court had been preparing that decision during the whole six month period, when the trial was paused," says Anahit Bakhshyan who left court room and said she will never return.

Demirchyan family attorney Ashot Sargsyan is highly dissatisfied with the ruling to not call any more witnesses. He says that in accordance with the indictment of the Military Prosecutor's Office all those 129 witnesses were involved as witnesses to the incident, and not as part of the abstract.

Ashot Sargsyan motioned the court to invite dozens of witnesses. The court, however, agreed to invite only five more witnesses.

After discussing those developments, the Demirchyan family decided to withdraw its participation in the trial.

"I agree with those assuring me that in reality this trial is a farce," Ashot Sargsyan said. "Physical presence is senseless when you know the case and try to render multilateral assistance to the court so that it could carry out an objective investigation, and then run upon impassable barriers."

The prosecution called Ashot Sargsyan's boycott "short-sighted" and Judge Uzunyan said the boycott was probably planned before his ruling.

Sargsyan returned to court Thursday to begin his closing argument.

Vazgen Sarsyan's family says it has no intention of boycotting the remainder of the trial.

"I've initially said that the trial has been ordered by authorities, and it takes place in accordance with their scenario," said brother of the murdered Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan (who himself succeed his brother and briefly held the republic's second-highest office).

Aram Sargsyan says that government authorities are not inclined toward an objective trial. Future witnesses, he says, could have added valuable testimony.

For his part, Hunanyan agrees with the court decision to stop witnesses' questioning but only with one exception. He wanted Kocharyan's former advisor and current chairman of the Board of Directors of Armenian Public Television and Radio Alexan Harutyunyan. (Harutyunyan was initially arrested in connection with the case, but was released after a few months. He currently holds the appointment previously held by Naghdalyan.) The court rejected Hunanyan's motion.

Hunanyan also made a statement concerning testimonies in the Naghdalyan case. He said that on the night of October 27 he had a conversation with Naghdalyan, about which he hasn't yet spoken.

After two and a half years of proceedings, Hunanyan may have managed to instill a bit of intrigue into the trial with the hint of Naghdalyan's involvement.

Still, after nearly three years neither the public nor the court seems closer to answering the only question that remains when there is videotaped evidence of guilt:

Did Hunanyan et. al. act on their own volition, or were they part of a conspiracy?

According to Agnes
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  Photos of the week
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Surviving members of the legendary Ararat football team were reunited Friday October 24 for a match to mark the 30th anniversary of their Soviet league
championship and cup double-winning season in 1973. The team played an all-star former Soviet national side at Yerevan's Hrazdan stadium.



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