Sargsyan (center) heard a verdict in November
that he hopes will be overturned..
Over the past month, an appeals court has heard
new testimony in the murder case of the Chairman
of Public TV of Armenia Tigran Naghdalyan.
In November the Court of First Instance found
Armen Sargsyan (younger brother of slain Prime
Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and of oppositional leader
Aram Sargsyan) guilty of ordering the murder of
the popular journalist. Naghdalyan was shot to
death December 28, 2002. Armen Sargsyan was sentenced
to 15 years imprisonment.
Sargsyan was one of 13 defendants found guilty
of various crimes related to the murder. Five,
including Sargsyan, have appealed their verdicts.
Armenia's political opposition widely believes
that accusing Sargsyan of the murder of the journalist
is conditioned by political motives. Sargsyan's
arrest was announced on the night preceding last
March's runoff election won by President Robert
Kocharyan over Stepan Demirchyan.
Sargsyan attorney Robert Grigoryan has appealed
his client's verdict, citing the lower court's
refusal to hear testimony of medical experts who,
Grigoryan claims, would contradict evidence heard
during the trial. Grigoryan's appeal asks the
Court to overturn the verdict.
Four other defendants are asking the Court of
Appeals to reduce sentences.
In appeal testimony, John Harutyunyan, who confessed
to killing Naghdalyan, said that he was solicited
to commit the murder-for-hire in November, 2002.
Prosecutors say that Armen Sargsyan ordered the
murder December 15, 2002.
Prosecutors called for Harutyunyan's testimony
- given during preliminary investigations - to
be read in the appeal hearings. Harutyunyan replied:
"I don't want to listen to these testimonies.
I refused them, as I didn't write them."
Co-conspirator Felix Arustamyan, who was sentenced
to 12 years in prison by the lower court, has
given new testimony concerning two vehicles he
observed following Naghdalyan.
Arustamyan says he thought the cars carried Naghdalyan's
bodyguards. But when the cars did not enter Naghdalyan's
yard, Arustamyan said he came to believe that
parties were spying on Naghdalyan. He says he
did not mention the Niva and Volga during earlier
testimony because he did not get a look at the
faces in the cars.
During preliminary investigation Naghdalyan's
widow, Diana Naghdalyan, gave similar testimony,
mentioning that she and her husband had been followed
for some time. She described a man whom she saw
several times at their yard entrance. She also
described the cars she believed were trailing
her husband's movements. Investigators did not
pursue her leads.
Gegham Shahbazyan, who was sentenced to 11 years
of imprisonment for conspiracy, stated in the
Court of Appeal that Armen Sargsyan didn't order
In reply to numerous questions of judges and
prosecutors Shahbazyan insisted: "I recalled
everything and told all the truth here. I told
about everything that had happened."
Shahbazyan also reported words of Sargsyan's
relative Hovhannes "Aper" Harutyunyan
to the court (Harutyunyan was accused of helping
hire Naghdalyan's killer).
According to Shahbazyan, Hovhannes Harutyunyan
also denied any involvement by Sargsyan.
"Never tell Armen's name," Hovhannes
Harutyunyan allegedly said. "I am the one.
I avenged the murder of my cousin." (Harutyunyan
is a relative of Vazgen Sargsyan.)
Naghdalyan's sister, Karineh Naghdalyan, says
Shahbazyan is afraid. "He is talking in favor
of the person who sits next to him and who he
is afraid of," she said.
Naghdalyan's family is disappointed by the sentences
handed down by the first court. They say the sentences
were too soft.
On December 29 Armen Sargsyan again stated that
he didn't order the murder of Naghdalyan. He did,
however, admit to knowing who killed Naghdalyan,
but said he did not come forward with the information
because he did not trust law enforcement authorities.
Sargsyan sent letters to several political parties,
non-governmental organizations and parliamentary
groups urging them to pay attention to the new
"I believe that the presence of your representatives
at court sessions will contribute to getting objective,
proper and complete information and forming opinion
on the current state of justice," Sargsyan
wrote in the letter.