Hunanian Insists He Masterminded Parliament Carnage

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Nairi Hunanian–the leader of the armed group that stormed the Armenian parliament last October–continues to insist that he was the mastermind of the blood-bath that left eight people dead–keeping the high-profile investigation in deadlock–his lawyer said on Tuesday. The lawyer–Artashes Pahlavuni–said he thinks that Hunanian will stick to his assertion during his expected trial later this year.

Military prosecutors investigating the parliament shootings believe that they were part of an attempted coup and that Hunanian and the four other gunmen acted on somebody’s orders. That theory is backed by friends and relatives of the victims of the crime and a considerable part of the country’s population. However–Hunanian’s refusal to accept any link with an organized force makes it extremely difficult for the prosecutors to prove the coup theory.

Pahlavuni told RFE/RL that the gang leader has written a "100-page testimony" explaining the motives behind his decision to assassinate Armenia’s former prime minister Vazgen Sargsyan–parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six other officials. Hunanian "speaks there of general issues and concludes that it was impossible to continue to live that way–and that something had to be done," the lawyer said. "I think he will say the same thing in court," he added.

Just minutes after bursting into the parliament chamber and taking dozens of officials hostage–the 35-year-old former journalist accused Armenia’s post-Soviet authorities–embodied by Sargsyan–of plunging the people into poverty and "sucking their blood." Unless Hunanian makes far-reaching revelations during the trial–Pahlavuni said–the court will be unable to convict "organizers" of the crime.

The parliament attack investigation–which has been marred with controversy and scandals right from the beginning–is expected to be partially completed by the end of this month. The criminal case against individuals charged with "committing and assisting" the murders and police officers blamed for poor security in and around the parliament building on October 27 will then be sent to court.

But lawyers say the trial will begin no sooner than next October as the judge hearing the case and defense lawyers need some time to look into all materials of the eight-month inquiry. The military prosecutors will in the meantime continue to look for other culprits. But that may last for years–Pahlavuni suggested.

In a related development–the office of Armenia’s prosecutor-general has rejected Hunanian’s demand to replace the team of investigators–it emerged on Tuesday. In a letter to President Robert Kocharian last month–the chief gunman’said he is retracting his testimony implicating a number of individuals because it was extracted by force. He repeated those allegations during a meeting in jail on June 1 with Armenia’s prosecutor-general–interior and national security ministers.

One of the persons implicated by Hunanian in the killings last December was a close aide to Kocharian–Aleksan Harutiunian. Harutiunian’s arrest fueled speculations about Kocharian’s part in the killings and intensified the power struggle inside the country’s leadership. But his subsequent release from jail was a crucial boost to the Armenian president’s successful efforts to reassert his authority.

According to lawyer Pahlavuni–the prosecutor’s office has found "no violations of the due process of law" in the investigators’ work. Allegations of torture have also been made by other parliament attack suspects who–too–have been recently released from pre-trial detention for lack of evidence.

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