YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Nairi Hunanian–the man who led the 1999 bloody raid on the parliament–said on Friday that the plot to overthrow Armenia’s "criminal government" first arose two months before the assault and that he was its sole author. Hunanian–again denying the theory that the murder of Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and seven other officials was masterminded by other–more influential figures–claimed he opted for terror after losing hope to make things better "in a civilized way."The true organizers–instigators and backers of that revolt were the authorities themselves," the 35-year-old former journalist declared in further testimony to the court. He said his original plan envisaged a bloodless seizure of the parliament along with deputies and ministers–to be followed by the Sarkisian government’s forced resignation and the formation of a new cabinet enjoying greater popular support. Killings were seen only "as a last resort," he went on.
Hunanian and four other members of his group–including his brother Karen–have been standing trial on charges of murder–terrorism and an attempted coup d’etat since February. The five jailed gunmen had little difficulty smuggling Kalashnikov rifles into the parliament building to spray it with bullets on October 27–1999. The gunmen’surrendered to police after holding dozens of ministers and deputies hostage for 18 hours.
Hunanian told the court that the gang had initially planned to attack the government building on the main Yerevan square but then realized that the parliament is far easier a target in terms of poor security and opportunities for a live radio address to the nation. Hunanian–who was a frequent visitor to the National Assembly in 1999–said he thoroughly inspected the building in the weeks leading to the attack–discovering–in particular–that Sarkisian’s bodyguards were often awaiting the premier outside.
He said a "revolt against the existing criminal regime" became the only option after he exhausted all possibilities of improving the political and economic situation in Armenia. Hunanian said his efforts to get a government job or form his own political party since his return from Ukraine in 1997 reinforced his belief that change is impossible to bring about by peaceful means.