Naghdalian Murder Trial Finally Underway

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE-RL)–The Kentron and Nork-Marash district court has begun to hear the trial on the assassination of the chairman of the Council of Public TV and Radio Company of Armenia Tigran Naghdalian.

On Tuesday–the brother of opposition leader Aram Sarkisian formally pleaded not guilty to accusations of organizing the assassination. Armen Sarkisian–who has been kept in detention since March–insisted on his innocence after prosecutors read out their indictment during the second court hearing in the trial of 13 individuals allegedly involved in the murder.

Besides Sarkisian–Khachik Aginian–Nshan Muradian and Rafik Melkonian pleaded not guilty as well. John Harutiunian–who is accused of shooting Naghdalian–along with Hovannes Harutiunian–Gegham Shahbazian–Grigor Petrossian–Levon Harutiunian and Armen Manassian pleaded guilty. Felix Arustamian–Samvel Abrahamian–and Samvel Harutiunian pleaded partially guilty.

Hovannes Harutiunian is accused of being an accomplice to the assassination and of possessing illegal arms; the other accused are charged with either being accomplices or possessing illegal arms. Defendants John Harutiunian–Felix Arustamian–Samvel Abrahamian–and Armen Manassian are Karabagh citizens; Armen Sarkisian Gegham Shahbazian–Grigor Petrossian and Leva Harutiunian are residents of the Ararat region of Armenia.

The judge running the proceedings Saribek Aramian–granted the prosecutors’ request to remove Sarkisian from the courtroom during the cross-examination of six of the defendants including Hovannes Harutiunian. The prosecutors argued that his presence could deter them from telling the truth. Hovannes Harutiunian–a distant relative of the Sarkisian family was allegedly paid $75,000 by the businessman to arrange Naghdalian’s killing. Sarkisian–however–says that he was "blackmailed" by Harutiunian after the shooting and paid the money because he feared for his life.

The prosecutors claim that Sarkisian plotted to kill Naghdalian because he felt that the latter was involved in the assassination of his brother–then Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian–in the October 1999 terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament.

The next hearing is scheduled for August 19.

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