By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Authorities dispelled on Wednesday persistent rumors about the death of Nairi Hunanian, the leader of an armed group that attacked the Armenian parliament in October 1999, allowing a small group of journalists, including an RFE/RL correspondent, to see him in jail.
President Robert Kocharian suggested that three of the reporters present at his news conference visit the detention center formerly run by the National Security Ministry. Hunanian has been kept there along with his four henchmen ever since they surrendered to law-enforcement agencies after killing eight senior officials and taking dozens of others hostage on October 27, 1999.
This correspondent, who had witnessed the parliament massacre, was among the three journalists selected for the visit. They were able to see Hunanian through an inspection hole on the door of his prison cell. The ringleader appeared in good health.
Rumors that he committed a suicide had been circulating in Yerevan since the beginning of January.
The long-running trial of Hunanian and his accomplices was interrupted about that time, ostensibly due to the presiding judge Samvel Uzunian’s illness. But opposition leaders claim that the court sessions were suspended so that Kocharian can avoid negative publicity, created by the highly sensitive case, during his reelection campaign. Uzunian, meanwhile, insists that he has not yet recovered from the illness.