All Five Gunmen Charged On Two Counts

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan)–Gunmen who stormed the Armenian parliament on Wednesday–killing its speaker–the country’s prime minister and six other officials were on Monday formally charged with "terrorism" and "premeditated murder committed in aggravating circumstances."

A spokesman for the office of Armenia’s prosecutor-general told RFE/RL that the five men led by a 34-year-old former journalist–Nairi Hounanian–will be tried on the two counts after investigation into the unprecedented armed attack is over.

If convicted of the charges–Hounanian and his gang may well face a death penalty. But Justice Minister David Harutiunian said earlier that the execution of a possible death sentence is unlikely in view of obligations Armenia has made to the Council of Europe. The removal of capital punishment is a necessary condition for membership in the human rights organization.

No person has been executed in Armenia’since 1990.

The gunmen who gave themselves up on Thursday said the attack on parliament was a punishment to those who–in their words–"sucked the people’s blood" and plunged the country into poverty.

But the majority of parliament deputies is convinced that somebody else was behind assassinations which they say were aimed at leaving the ruling Unity bloc without leadership.

The slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and speaker Karen Demirchian co-headed the bloc. The two leaders and five other victims of the bloodbath were buried yesterday–with tens of thousands of people attending their funeral.

Sources in law-enforcement agencies told RFE/RL today that three other persons have been arrested in the last several days on suspicion of involvement in the attack. One of them is the owner of a minibus which police say drove the well armed gunmen to the parliament building. It is not clear who the two others are.

The National Assembly is due to convene for an emergency session shortly to elect its new speaker and his two deputies. President Robert Kocharian has said he will after that appoint a new prime minister.

All five have retained counsel–reported the Noyan Tapan news agency.

Nairi Hounanian will be represented by Artashes Pahlavuni–Karen Hounanian by Kima Melkonian–Derenik Bejanian by Karlen Atabekian–Eduard Grigorian by Vardan Safarian–and Vram Galstian by Zhudeks Shakarian.

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