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

The Naghdalyan Case: Armen Sargsyan faces his accusers

Sargsyan appeared self-confident and relaxed, flamboyant even.

Attention in the Tigran Naghdalyan murder trial turned again to accused killer John Harutyunyan and co-defendant Felix Arustamyan this week.

Armen Sargsyan, the brother of slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, is accused of ordering Naghdalyan's murder (allegedly for $75,000). He was expected to testify, however his testimony was postponed when an isolation ward doctor confirmed that Sargsyan is in bad health, suffering from stomach and kidney problems.

In previous testimony Harutyunyan admitted killing Naghdalyan, but has steadfastly denied knowing Armen Sargsyan. In testimony this week, he held that position.

"I didn't know Armen Sargsyan and I saw Aram (Sargsyan's brother) only on TV. I only asked Gegham (Shabazyan, who is accused of soliciting Harutyunyan for the murder) if we are caught what should I say. Gegham told us to say that we did it for Vazgen Sargsyan," Hartuyunyan told the court.

"I heard Armen Sargsyan's name only during the investigation. Ghegam passed me an order to commit the murder and as a person, who ordered the murder, I heard only about Liova (Harutyunyan, father of Armen Sargsyan's godson)."

It became clear from the questions asked by lawyer Robert Grigoryan that before moving to Yerevan John Harutyunyan had attempted suicide (by cutting his wrists) in Karabakh. He confirmed that the incident had been connected with Naghdalyan's case, however, he became nervous and said he didn't wish to talk about it.

Grigoryan: "What was Tigran Naghdalyan's position when you shot at him?"
Harutyunyan: "I don't know. I don't remember."
Grigoryan: "Did he feel you were going to shoot him?"
Harutyunyan: "I was outside. He didn't see me. It was dark. I shot and ran away. I thought I had shot in his chest but I knew from TV he was shot in the head."

Defendant Arustamyan also denied knowing Armen Sargsyan, and stated that his participation in the murder was arranged through Shabazyan. Further, Arustamyan testified that when he was arrested February 29 in his hometown of Martuni, Karabakh, he didn't know what he was being arrested for.

"I thought I had been arrested for hunting," he said. "I learned about Naghdalyan's murder in Yerevan." Arustamyan said that for five days he was beaten by investigators, but he didn't know why.

"Whatever they told me I said, yes, I did that. Hashish, weapons. But they continued to beat me. I signed everything they gave me. I signed numerous documents but I didn't write a single word myself," he stated.

During Thursday session defendant Gegham Shahbazyan refused to answer Armen Sargsyan's questions, mentioning that he sticks to the testimonies he gave during the preliminary investigation. He stated only: "I didn't know Armen Sargsyan and I never talked to Armen Sargsyan."

Sargsyan, himself, was addressing questions prepared beforehand to Shahbazyan. He appeared self-confident and relaxed, flamboyant even. He expressed regret that Shahbazyan was not going to answer his questions and asked a few times: "Aren't you going to change your mind?"

Shahbazyan just sat with his face lowered.

Armen Sargsyan: "Gegham, answer at least one question as a man, have you ever visited my home as you mentioned in your testimonies?"
Gegham Shahbazyan: "No, Armen-jan."
Armen Sargsyan: "As Aper testified both of you were leaders of the murder's perpetrators. Please, tell me yourself about your role, whether Tigran was killed because you wanted to cover your debts?

However, these questions were not answered. It also became clear from questions and testimony that was read in court that Armen Sargsyan himself had been the target of a murder plotted by the same suspects.

Defendant Grigor Petrosyan mechanically answered a few questions, appearing scared and near tears. He said he is afraid of Armen Sargsyan.

"I don't know anything. What can I say," Petrosyan said. "I was confused that's why I gave testimonies like that (in the investigation). You know how it is to be in the prosecutor's office. You will give testimonies even against your mother."

People started to laugh and Petrosyan sat, crossed himself and began crying from time to time stealthily looking at Sargsyan. His wife sitting in the court room was also weeping.

Sargsyan's questions concerning testimonies given by defendants revealed numerous discrepancies. The court recorded the questions, but they were not answered.

Liova Harutyunyan also stuck to testimonies he gave during preliminary investigation and sat with his face hidden in his hands while Sargsyan was asking his questions.

"Are your testimonies correct? Have we talked about it? Did I promise to pay for Naghdalyan's murder? When you told Shahbazyan if you have no money you will ask you're your godfather, does it mean that you have coordinated it with me? If you didn't know my opinion why did you promise Shahbazyan such things? Why was it so necessary for you? Have I ever asked you who is Gegham?" asked Sargsyan.

Hovhannes "Aper" Harutyunyan, who is Sargsyan's distant relative and a key figure in the case refused to answer any questions.

"In the isolation ward we were questioned front to front and he (Armen Sargsyan) didn't answer questions," Hovhannes Harutyunyan said. "I'm also not going to answer questions."

"At that time Armen felt bad, he was sick," interjected Judge Saribek Aramyan.

"After getting better I informed the investigative group that I was ready to give testimonies and be questioned front to front but they didn't do that," explained Sargsyan, who was sick since the first days of being in isolation ward and always has high temperature.

Most questions were addressed to Harutyunyan. There were numerous discrepancies in the testimonies. Sargsyan compared testimonies given by Shahbazyan, Liova Harutyunyan and Hovhannes Harutyunyan, which weren't simultaneous with each other -- neither day, nor time, nor place, nor circumstances, under which they met or discussed, coincided.

Attacking testimony that the other defendants had discussed the killing with Armen Sargsyan via cell phone in the Voskehat village, Sargsyan pointed out that there is no cell phone service in that Ararat region.

"Go to Armentel (the republic's phone provider) and they will tell you about that," said Sargsyan.

Today (Friday) Armen Sargsyan refused to give testimony, instead he appealed to the court and asked that his testimony of March 20 (given following arrest five day earlier) be read in court.

His testimony was read, and a videotape was shown of Sargsyan during interrogation.

Oddly, the prosecution had no questions for Sargsyan, the main defendant.

More in

On Trial - August-22-2003
Naghdalyan Case, Session Four - September-05-2003
Tigran Naghdalyan Murder Case - September-12-2003
The Naghdalyan Case - September-26-2003

Or click here for previous stories on the case.


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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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