By Shakeh Avoyan
A self-styled poet from southern Armenia is facing trial for putting on paper and disseminating his belief that the October 1999 killings in the country’s parliament were masterminded by President Robert Kocharian.
Janik Adamian, an unemployed resident of the town Ararat, was arrested last June after posting his allegedly slanderous poem on the walls of local buildings. Charged with bringing a “false criminal accusation” against Kocharian, Adamian spent more than two months in custody before being set free pending the outcome of his highly controversial trial. It began in the nearby town of Vedi last week, attracting journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians from Yerevan.
Also prosecuted is Jemma Sahakian, Adamian’s neighbor who typed his verses on a typewriter. Sahakian was detained and released three days later.
The poem in question speaks of an unnamed unclean dog that “had a hand in the October 27 case” and betrayed former prime minister Vazgen Sarkisian, one of the eight officials murdered in the attack and a native of Ararat. Adamian does not deny that he referred to Kocharian.
“The defendant continues to believe that the president of the republic knew about the planned killings,” the prosecutor at the trial, Hmayak Hakobian, said on Friday. He said the allegation is unfounded and amounts to defamation of character.
But the defendant’s lawyer, Hovannes Arsenian, argued that Adamian simply voiced his opinion and his prosecution runs counter to the Armenian constitution which guarantees freedom of expression. He said the prosecutors are “paying a lip service” to Kocharian by providing more publicity to those who continue to accuse him, mainly implicitly, of orchestrating the 1999 bloodbath.
Many of them are relatives and close associates of the assassinated officials who are unhappy with the course of the long-running trial of the five perpetrators of the massacre. The 18-month court proceedings have so far turned up scant proof of a popular theory that the gunmen had powerful backers outside the parliament building. Some of the victims’ relatives and supporters like Adamian accuse the authorities of secretly instructing the gunmen to hide the truth about the parliament tragedy.
Ironically, Adamian was one of Kocharian’s proxies in an Ararat polling station during the 1998 presidential elections. He now says that he worked for the Kocharian campaign only because “Vazgen told us to do so.” “We knew and respected Vazgen more than Robert. And in effect, we voted for Vazgen,” he explained on Friday.