A self-styled scholar who ran in Armenia’s recent presidential election went on trial on Tuesday on charges of organizing an apparent attempt on the life of another outsider candidate, Paruyr Hayrikian.
Vartan Sedrakian appeared before a court in Yerevan along with two other men, Khachatur Poghosian and Samvel Harutiunian, who are accused of shooting and wounding Hayrikian outside his home on January 31. Law-enforcement authorities claim that Sedrakian hired them with the aim of putting an end to Hayrikian’s political activities. Sedrakian strongly denies these charges.
The ex-candidate predicted his arrest one week before the February 18 presidential election in which he garnered 0.42 percent of the vote. He said the authorities will exploit the fact that he personally knows Poghosian and Harutiunian. He also revealed at the time that one of the arrested men was among several workers who remodeled his country house last year, while the other drove a taxi regularly used by them.
Sedrakian’s lawyer, Aleksandr Sirunian, insisted on Monday that the National Security Service (NSS), which conducted the criminal investigation into the high-profile shooting, has failed to prove his involvement. He said that none of the two other defendants explicitly testified during the investigation that they were paid by his client to kill Hayrikian.
“I don’t share that opinion,” Hayrikian’s attorney, Levon Baghdasarian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Tuesday. He said his client is “by and large” satisfied with the pre-trial probe.
Hayrikian, who is a prominent Soviet-era dissident, criticized the probe through Baghdasarian on March 20. The lawyer said then that Hayrikian believes the three arrested suspects had only “a tiny part in that monstrous crime.”
The trial in the case adjourned shortly after its start. The presiding judge scheduled the next court hearing for May 20 after Poghosian, who is accused of firing two gunshots at Hayrikian, asked the court to provide him with a defense lawyer free of charge.
Sedrakian smiled and blew kisses to his wife present at the opening court session as he was brought into the courtroom.