The Armenian parliament on Wednesday showed a surprise unanimity in
approving a motion to investigate allegations that the authorities have deliberately botched the investigation into the 1999 murder of the country's prime minister, parliament speaker and six other officials. The initiative won the overwhelming support of deputies after the government and its loyal lawmakers dropped their opposition to what could amount to a parliament oversight of the politically explosive probe.
Vice-speaker Gagik Aslanian discussing the idea of a parliamentary oversight with colleagues before the debate
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and his Republican Party (HHK) earlier argued against the creation of an ad hoc commission of the National Assembly tasked with finding out whether the parliament attackers currently standing trial receive secret instructions from influential government officials. They warned that the move could affect the course of the court proceedings and the parallel official search for possible "organizers" of the killings.
The Republicans reluctantly backed off in the face of growing cross-party support for the initiative put forward by the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) and the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans. But their leaders made it clear that the two groups, increasingly at odds with Markarian, must not exploit the probe for political aims. Another top politician, Aghvan Vartanian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun party, also warned against attempts to "privatize the tragedy for drawing political
But authors of the HZhK-Yerkrapah bill denied any political motives behind their drive to check government assurances that the case of the parliament shootings is being properly investigated. "The creation of the commission is aimed at dispelling our doubts," said Ghukas Ulikhanian, a senior Yerkrapah
The commission in question will have 12 members representing all
parliamentary factions and group. It will have free access to the prisons and detention sites where the five men that burst into the parliament building in October 1999 are being kept. The commission is to report by next November on the "legality of activities of law-enforcement bodies guarding the criminals."
HZhK and Yerkrapah leaders suspect that the leader of the gunmen, Nairi Hunanian, is being "illegally" advised on how to mislead the public hungry for truth about the tragedy.
Hunanian, meanwhile, on Wednesday reiterated that he had been mistreated by prosecutors into implicating persons close to President Robert Kocharian in the bloodbath. He again told a court in Yerevan that his November 1999 testimony against presidential adviser Aleksan Harutiunian had been given under duress.
Ruzanna Khachatrian, Karine Kalantarian