By Karine Kalantarian
The gunman who directed a hail of automatic gunfire at Vazgen Sarkisian in October 1999 said on Wednesday that he does not regret killing the then powerful prime minister of Armenia. The 25-year-old Karen Hunanian told a Yerevan court that he still believes Sarkisian was a “dictator and plunderer” responsible for the country’s woes.
Hunanian was a member of the five-strong armed group that murdered eight senior officials in a shock raid on the Armenian parliament. The gang was led by his older brother, Nairi Hunanian.
“Prevention of the state’s collapse necessitated a change of government through a revolution,” an unrepentant Hunanian Jr. declared in his first court testimony. Echoing his brother’s repeated statements, he said the attack was aimed at the “overthrow of a criminal regime” that ruled Armenia. He added that the assassinations were to be followed by the creation of an “interim government” that would hold free and fair elections.
The two brothers who have been on trial since February insist that it was Nairi Hunanian who had masterminded the plot. But there was an apparent discrepancy between their testimonies. Unlike Nairi who told the court that the gang hoped to avoid bloodshed, Karen indicated that the killing of Sarkisian was a necessary part of their plan.
Hunanian shot at Sarkisian at point-blank range just seconds after the gunmen burst into the parliament hall, leaving no chances to the premier. The entire attack was videotaped by state television. But the gruesome picture of Hunanian hitting Sarkisian’s dead body with the butt of his Kalashnikov rifle was cut from the footage provided to foreign television channels.