By Karine Kalantarian
All but one members of the Armenian parliament failed to appear in court on Wednesday to cross-examine Nairi Hunanian, the man who struck terror into their hearts in October 1999 after killing several of their colleagues. Stepan Demirchian, a deputy from the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), was a lone figure in the half-empty courtroom in the center of Yerevan as he questioned to the leader of the armed group that seized the assembly 20 months ago.
Ninety-one lawmakers who were present at the tragic parliament session are officially considered to be “victims” of the bloody raid by the prosecution in the ongoing trial of Hunanian and four other jailed gunmen. They were to put questions to the 35-year-old former journalist after the completion of his prolonged cross-examination by prosecutor Hakob Martirosian. But only Zakarian showed up, stunning participants of the trial and the press corps.
Many deputies who had spent the night from October 27 to 28 as hostages are convinced that Hunanian is not telling the truth by insisting that he and his henchmen had acted on their own. Some of them have harshly criticized the authorities’ handling of the case, saying in particular that the investigators have overlooked some important facts related to it.
Zakarian, also a former journalist, inquired why Hunanian demanded that a group of law-enforcement officers examine the bloodstained parliament hall shortly after killing Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six other officials. Zakarian wondered if Hunanian had been given a “promise” by some ruling circles to cover up the murder of Demirchian and his two deputies. The ringleader denied any such motives, saying that he invited them to find evidence of an exchange of fire between the gunmen and bodyguards of the slain officials.
Zakarian will continue the questioning at the next court session.