By Karine Kalantarian
Nairi Hunanian repeated on Wednesday his claim that the killings of eight senior officials were not intentional as he watched in court the harrowing video of the massacre he and four other gunmen had staged in the Armenian parliament in October 1999.
State prosecutors at the ongoing parliament shootings trial used footage of the interrupted question-and-answer session of the parliament, broadcast worldwide, for further cross-examination of the jailed ringleader. Hunanian coolly took notes as the television pictures reminded the trial participants of the bloody drama that shocked the nation.
“As have made it clear before, I fired immediately after seeing a [threatening] movement in my direction,” he said when asked to prove that he did not intend to kill then Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian. “This is was an instinctive act of self-defense,” he added.
The video shows that the opening shots were fired at Sarkisian by Hunanian’s younger brother Karen only seconds after the gunmen quietly entered the main National Assembly hall. That was followed by a hail of automatic gunfire directed at Demirchian and his deputy Yuri Bakhshian by the gang leader himself. Most of the other victims are believed to have been killed by stray bullets.
Hunanian said he and his brother “lost their nerve” as they felt that their life is under threat and insisted that the purpose of the attack was a bloodless overthrow of what he believes was a corrupt government. He continued to dismiss any suggestions that the attack was masterminded by other, more influential persons.
Relatives and supporters of the murdered officials are convinced that the gunmen did have powerful backers outside the parliament building. But throughout his nearly two-month cross-examination by the prosecution Hunanian made no hints about the involvement of any other individuals or forces in the massacre.