By Karine Kalantarian
State prosecutors intend to shorten the list of over a hundred witnesses who have yet to testify at the protracted trial of gunmen who seized the Armenian parliament in October 1999, senior law-enforcement officials confirmed on Monday.
The plans are aimed at speeding up the court proceedings which have been going on since February 2001 with no end looming on the horizon. They have already prompted speculation that the Armenian authorities would like to finish the trial as early as the end of this year.
The prosecutors’ witness list includes the names of 129 individuals who witnessed, in one way or another, the bloody attack unleashed by the five gunmen led by former journalist Nairi Hunanian. All of them have given pre-trial testimony to the investigators led until recently by Chief Military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian. But only two dozen people, among them government officials and parliament deputies and staffers, have testified in the court so far.
According to another senior military prosecutor, Armen Harutiunian, some of their accounts have been confirmed by the defendants and therefore spare the prosecution the need to question more witness to make their case for the Hunanian gang’s conviction. “There are people who may not be invited to the court for questioning because the defendants have already accepted certain circumstances [of the crime],” he told RFE/RL.
That the list of the witnesses is likely to be curtailed was also confirmed by another top prosecutor, Koryun Piloyan, late last week. But Piloyan would not be drawn on how many people will be removed from it.
Several of the listed witnesses have reportedly moved to the United States since 2000, and it is not clear whether the law-enforcement authorities still want them to appear before the district court in central Yerevan. Among those witnesses are a former parliament employee who allowed the assailants to enter the parliament building, a nurse who first examined the bullet-riddled bodies of the eight assassinated officials as well as a TV journalist and longtime friend of Hunanian’s who negotiated with the ringleader while he held dozens of deputies and government officials hostage.