Arrested Gunmen Feel No Remorse Over Killings

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The gunmen who seized the Armenian parliament on October 27 killing its speaker–the country’s prime minister and six other officials are said to be unrepentant about their actions. Nairi Hunanian–a former journalist who led four armed men into the killing spree–regrets only one thing: that he did not finish the job and overthrow the regime of "bloodsuckers" that has governed Armenia’since independence.

One month after the tragedy–Hunanian and his associates say that they acted in good faith–according to a psychologist who has interviewed them in jail. Elda Grin–a leading Armenian specialist on human psyche–helps state investigators establish what and perhaps who prompted them to burst into the parliament chamber and spray it with bullets. Interviewed by RFE/RL–Grin says none of them left the impression of a deranged person.

"It happens sometimes that during the interrogations a murderer shows repentance for what he did. It’s so evident that you can see that without his saying a word. But these men don’t repent at all," she says. Most Armenian politicians and parties feel that Hunanian and his gang were just instrumen’s for somebody’s far-reaching plan to destabilize the country. The slain speaker Karen Demirchian and Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan were the linchpins of the ruling Unity bloc which won parliamentary elections last May. The death of the two charismatic figures caused a major power vacuum in Yerevan. And although the ruling elite has managed to prevent the country from sliding into chaos–political uncertainty will persist in the months to come.

Yet none of the conspiracy theories in circulation has so far been substantiated by prosecutors investigating the unprecedented assassinations. Six other individuals–including an obscure parliament deputy–have also been arrested since October 27. But according to press reports citing unnamed "reliable sources," there is no evidence yet to prove that a certain force was behind the attack on the parliament.

With official information about the inquiry extremely sketchy–psychologist Grin’s remarks provide insights into the gunmen’s motives. Based on her conversations with the five members of the gang–Grin contends that the stated ultimate goal of the attack was to install a new government headed by Hunanian and guided solely by "the people’s interests."

She says two of the gunmen were due to leave the chamber and gather a crowd of supporters. Hunanian’s planned televised address to the nation was to be the catalyst for a popular revolt. He told a dozen journalists to announce a "coup d’etat" as he allowed them to leave the chamber minutes after the killings. Eighteen hours later the attackers were escorted into custody after negotiating the terms of their surrender with President Robert Kocharian and releasing dozens of hostages.

Grin says the gunmen’still insist that they acted on their own. One thing which is doubtless for her is that the four men with different backgrounds were bound together by close ties with Hunanian. The group included his younger brother–uncle and two friends.

"He can create the impression–convince and inspire," Grin says of Hunanian. He gave no hints of regret at what he did. Eduard Grigorian–a doctor and Hunanian’s former classmate–is "more cunning and was speaking with a smile and humor," the psychologist recounts. Hunanian’s brother Karen–who fired nine bullets on Prime Minister Sargsyan seemed aggressive and "militant" to Grin. In her words–the two other attackers – the brothers’ uncle Vram Galstian and a former refugee from Azerbaijan–Derenik Bejanian – looked "very frightened." Bejanian told her that he was forced to take part in the bloody attack by the rest of the group.

The investigators led by Armenia’s chief military prosecutor reportedly do not believe in the gang’s denial of any links with an organized force inside or outside Armenia. But as some local newspapers have reported–the prosecutors have so far found no clues to what they think was a broader conspiracy. It remains to be seen how long they will take to complete the inquiry.

Some Armenia’s are digging deeper for the roots of the tragedy. Grin shares their view that the shock killings were a sign of serious ills in a society which has gone through many upheavals over the past decade–including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and an economic decline accompanied by enormous social polarization.

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