By Karine Kalantarian
Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian, who was severely wounded in the 1999 seizure of parliament, renewed Wednesday his calls for its perpetrators’ execution, raging at the court for dragging out their trial until the abolition of capital punishment in Armenia.
In a highly emotional concluding statement at the trial, Manukian hinted that former journalist Nairi Hunanian and his four henchmen will not live much longer even if, as is widely anticipated, they are sentenced to life imprisonment. “Their verdict has already been handed down,” he screamed.
Manukian banged his fist on the table, shouted abuse and at one point threw a glass of water in Hunanian’s direction as his speech degenerated into an outburst of ferocious anger. “You have no place in this land,” he told the defendants locked in metal cages. “This land must not accept your carcasses.”
Turning to judge Samvel Uzunian and a team of trial prosecutors, he thundered, “You should have sentenced this swine to death. They deserve it. Not a death with a single bullet, but a brutal one.”
Wounded in the head when the Hunanian-led group sprayed the main National Assembly hall with bullets, Manukian miraculously survived the attack which left his face mutilated. He sided with President Robert Kocharian in the ensued power struggle inside the Armenian leadership and became a minister in 2000.
Manukian on Wednesday attacked the judicial and law-enforcement authorities for turning the trial into an “absurdity” and not making it much shorter. But he was even more critical of relatives of assassinated Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian who now lead the Armenian opposition and continue to suspect Kocharian of masterminding the massacre. He claimed that they have been exploiting the case in a bid to “come to power.”
The accusations were rebutted by Grigor Harutiunian, a senior member of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance led by Demirchian’s son Stepan. “Power has already been seized through October 27 [killings],” he told RFE/RL.