Court Confirms Jail Terms in Parliament Attack Case

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s Review Court turned down on Thursday appeals from three suspects in the 1999 parliament attack case–who received lengthy prison sentences at the end of a protracted trial last month.

One of the suspects–Eduard Grigorian–was among the five gunmen who went on a killing spree in the National Assembly–assassinating speaker Karen Demirchian–then Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian–and six other officials. Grigorian did not carry out any of the killings and claims to have been misled by the leader of the armed group–Nairi Hunanian.

Grigorian–as well as Ashot Knyazian–the man who allegedly provided the gunmen with automatic weapons–were sentenced to life imprisonment–along with Hunanian and three other defendants. Another suspect–Hamlet Stepanian–got 14 years. Stepanian–too–appealed the December 2 verdict handed down by the court of first instance of Yerevan’s Kentron and Nork-Marash districts.

A panel of three judges of the Review Court backed the prosecution’s claims that Grigorian–Knyazian–and Stepanian had been aware of the planned "armed coup d’etat" beforehand–and were part of the "organized group" that tried to stage it on October 27–1999.

The defense lawyers–however–argued that it is unfair to slap the same punishment on the assassins and their accomplices. They said they will–therefore–challenge the ruling at the higher Court of Appeals.

Grigorian–who worked as a pediatrician at a Yerevan hospital up until the day of the parliament attack–insists that Hunanian and his younger brother Karen–who jointly carried out all of the murders–had never told him that they will shoot anyone. He says he agreed to take part in the plot because it was supposed to be a bloodless overthrow of Armenia’s "corrupt" government.

Hunanian insisted throughout the nearly three-year trial that the decision to seize the National Assembly had been taken by himself without anybody’s orders.

Neither of the Hunanian brothers appealed against their life sentences despite condemning them as unfair. Some local observers suggest that they did so in order to avoid being affected by a recent change in the Armenian Criminal Code that denies convicts like them the right to eventual parole.

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