By Armen Zakarian
The Russian attorney representing interests of the late prime minister Vazgen Sarkisian’s family in the ongoing trial of his assassins accused on Wednesday the presiding judge, Samvel Uzunian, of “obstruction of justice.”
Oleg Yunyshev said he and his clients will demand Uzunian’s replacement unless the latter accepts their petitions during the next court sessions.
The accusations reflect the growing unhappiness with the course of the 15-month trial voiced by the Sarkisian family and relatives of the seven other victims of the October 1999 terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament. Many of them claim that state prosecutors and the judge have been thwarting their efforts to unearth the truth about the parliament killings which they believe had been masterminded by influential political forces.
Yunyshev’s criticism centers on Uzunian’s refusal to accept Russian forensic experts’ conclusion that the famous televised pictures of the bloody attack could have been edited before being broadcast around the world. He also argued that the office of prosecutor-general has only recently publicized the second, slightly lengthier version of the video. He said it clarified some important details of the massacre perpetrated by five gunmen after they burst into the National Assembly building.
But it is not clear whether the video could shed light on other circumstances of the shootings.
Yunyshev also slammed the judge for refusing to publicize what he said is another video showing a close presidential aide implicitly accusing President Robert Kocharian and then National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian of orchestrating the parliament attack. The aide, Aleksan Harutiunian, reportedly made the comments during a visit to the defense ministry the day after the attack. Allies of the slain prime minister claim that Harutiunian’s conversation with top army generals and leaders of the Yerkrapah Union was videotaped.
Harutiunian was arrested in December 1999 on charges of “prodding” Nairi Hunanian and the four other gunmen to carry out the killings. He strongly denied the charges and was released several months later for lack of evidence. His release from jail was crucial for Kocharian’s victory in the inner-government power struggle that followed the shock attack.
Meanwhile, it was officially announced on Wednesday that two other lawyers representing the Sarkisian family, Tigran Janoyan and his wife Marina Janoyan, have decided to abandon the case. A spokesman for Aram Sarkisian, the late prime minister’s brother, told reporters that the two made the decision after facing “some pressure” from the authorities. Suren Sureniants said their “tactical differences” with Yunyshev also played a role.
The Janoyans declined to comment.