Vartan Sedrakian, a former Armenian presidential candidate, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Monday for allegedly plotting to assassinate Paruyr Hayrikian, a veteran politician who also ran in the February 18 election.
A Yerevan court also gave 14-year and 12-year prison sentences to Khachatur Poghosian and Samvel Harutiunian, the two other men arrested following the January 31 attack on Hayrikian. Poghosian was convicted of shooting and wounding the prominent Soviet-era dissident. The court backed the prosecutors’ claim that both men were hired by Sedrakian.
Sedrakian, who is a self-styled scholar specializing in Armenian epic poems, strongly denied his involvement in the shooting throughout the high-profile trial. “Show me a single fact, a single piece of evidence proving that I ordered them to kill Paruyr Hayrikian,” he told the trial prosecutors in his concluding remarks on Thursday.
Sedrakian argued that both Poghosian and Harutiunian withdrew their incriminating pre-trial testimony against him during the court proceedings. He also pointed out that the prosecutors never clearly explained why they think he was keen to eliminate Hayrikian.
Both candidates were outsiders in the 2013 presidential race. According to Armenia’s Central Election Commission, Hayrikian garnered 1.2 percent of the vote, while Sedrakian fared even worse.
Poghosian, the confessed shooter, declared in June that he was paid by Harutiunian to intimidate, rather than assassinate, Hayrikian. The latter suffered a single gunshot wound to his right shoulder, which nearly delayed the conduct of the presidential ballot.
Nevertheless, the court backed the charges. The punishment given to Sedrakian was even harsher than a 12-year jail term demanded by the prosecutors.
Sedrakian’s lawyer, Aleksandr Sirunian, condemned the verdict as unfair and said his client will appeal it. Sirunian said they are ready to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Hayrikian was also dissatisfied with the Armenian authorities’ handling of the case. While reiterating that he believes Sedrakian was involved in shooting as a “middleman,” he insisted that its real mastermind has not been identified. “The motive for the crime has also not been identified,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Sedrakian, 46, was the most obscure of the eight candidates in the Armenian presidential contest. He began making a name for himself a year ago with flamboyant statements and campaign promises advertised on Facebook. He claimed in January that he is ready to spend as much as $2 million on his presidential bid.