By Karine Kalantarian
Military prosecutors investigating the 1999 massacre in the Armenian parliament are to interrogate an opposition activist who alleges that President Robert Kocharian was implicated in the crime by one of his close aides.
Artak Zeynalian, who is a senior member of the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, said on Tuesday that he was summoned to the chief military prosecutor’s office for questioning after repeatedly voicing his claims.
Zeynalian and some other former government officials claim to have witnessed Aleksan Harutiunian, who headed the presidential staff in 1999, blaming the parliament killings on Kocharian. They say that Harutiunian made the remarks during a late-night visit to the Armenian defense ministry on October 30, 1999 -- two days after the attack.
“Aleksan Harutiunian was drunk. He said that Robert Kocharian is a murderer and asked us not to touch his family,” Zeynalian told reporters. “He was at the same time swearing at Kocharian, his wife and children.”
Immediately after the bloodbath, the defense ministry became the unofficial headquarters of the political allies of the slain prime minister Vazgen Sarkisian who suspected Kocharian of masterminding the attack. Zeynalian, a deputy minister of health at the time, was among them.
He claimed that Harutiunian’s allegations were videotaped by a defense ministry cameraman. “According to my information, that tape has not been found and attached to the criminal case,” he added.
Harutiunian, who remains a presidential adviser, has previously denied the allegations, challenging his detractors to produce evidence. A former suspect in the case, Harutiunian spent several months in jail on charges of “inciting” the parliament gunmen before being cleared by the court in April 2000. His release precipitated Kocharian’s victory in the inner-government power struggle that followed the parliament massacre.