By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The main factions of the Armenian parliament on Monday defied a recent warning from the Council of Europe to insist that Nairi Hunanian and other jailed parliament gunmen be put to death despite their earlier pledge to abolish capital punishment. Leaders of the parliament majority and most other parties in the National Assembly said the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog should not prevent Armenia from executing a death sentence on the five men -- the mostly likely outcome of their ongoing trial.
A visiting Council of Europe delegation warned Yerevan last week that it could lose its recently gained membership of the organization if any of the defendants is eventually executed. Armenia, introduced a moratorium on the death penalty ten years ago, pledged to remove the punishment from its criminal code under the terms of the membership.
But a leader of the majority Miasnutyun bloc -- whose two founders, former Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian, were shot dead in the October 1999 attack on the parliament -- struck a defiant note, saying that Armenia must be granted an “exception” for the politically sensitive case. “October 27 is an unprecedented crime,” Galust Sahakian, who heads the bloc’s parliament faction, told RFE/RL. “Nobody has the right to teach us lessons.”
“We don’t reject the abolition of the death penalty, we just need time,” he said.
“If the court passed a death sentence we will stand for its implementation,” agreed the head of the second-biggest Kayunutyun group, Vartan Ayvazian.
The position of Miasnutyun and Kayunutyun, two leading members of the governing coalition, is backed by several minority factions, including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun. “The exceptional character of the crime requires exceptional treatment,” said the party’s parliamentary leader, Aghvan Vartanian.
Pietro Ago, an Italian diplomat who leads the Council’s ah hoc group monitoring Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s compliance with membership conditions, told reporters in Yerevan on July 3 that President Robert Kocharian has ruled out killing Hunanian and his henchmen.