By Karine Kalantarian and Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s leading opposition parties are expected to denounce on Wednesday those government supporters who have held them responsible for the mysterious murder of Tigran Naghdalian, chief of state television and radio.
Leaders of the 16-party opposition coalition formed on Tuesday a special working group which they said will draft the text of their first joint reaction to the December 28 shooting. They said the statement will strongly condemn it despite Naghdalian’s close ties with President Robert Kocharian and hostile attitude toward his opponents.
The statement will also shrug off allegations by some of Naghdalian’s friends and other Kocharian loyalists that the killing was masterminded by opposition groups. The presidential loyalists have said that the opposition leaders were too slow in responding to the shooting and did not attend funeral services for Naghdalian.
But the leader of the Armenian Communist Party (HKK), Vladimir Darpinian, accused the authorities of “using a person’s murder for political motives,” -- a remark echoed by other top opposition figures.
“We consider unacceptable attempts to steer the investigation into a particular direction,” said Stepan Demirchian of the People’s Party (HZhK).
Despite a series of brief arrests on New Year’s eve, state prosecutors have still not named any suspects in the high-profile criminal case. A spokesman for the prosecutor-general’s office told RFE/RL that two more arrests were made last week on charges of illegal arms possession. It was not clear, however, whether the arrests were linked of the inquiry.
Two opposition activists held on December 30 are due to be released later this week after serving a ten-day “administrative arrest” ostensibly for calling for a violent overthrow of the government. Both men are affiliated with the Socialist Armenia alliance, a member of the 16-party opposition grouping.
The Socialist Armenia leadership on Tuesday issued another statement denouncing the “unprecedented persecution” and “illegal arrests” of its members.
Meanwhile, another prominent oppositionist, Aram Sarkisian of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, urged the investigators to explore a possible link between Naghdalian’s death and the long-running probe of the October 1999 massacre in the Armenian parliament. He argued that Naghdalian was a key witness in the case and was due to testify at the ongoing trial of five parliament gunmen.
Their leader, Nairi Hunanian, had long known Naghdalian and briefly worked for state television when it was run by the latter. A friend of Naghdalian’s, TV reporter Tigran Nazarian, negotiated with the gang hours after it seized the main parliament auditorium. Nazarian currently lives in the United States.
Sarkisian’s brother, Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, was among eight senior officials gunned down in the attack.