By Anush Dashtents
A key lawyer at the ongoing trial of the Armenian parliament attackers claimed on Tuesday a direct link between the recent killing of state television chief Tigran Naghdalian and the October 1999 massacre.
Oleg Yunoshev, who represents the family of the assassinated Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, charged that Naghdalian had been “involved” in the parliament shootings and could have exposed their masterminds. Yunoshev said Naghdalian was gunned down shortly after his allegations that the harrowing video of five armed men bursting into the parliament hall was secretly edited by state television before it was made available to investigators.
The Russian attorney’s claims are bound to prompt strong protests from the murdered executive’s friends and other supporters of President Robert Kocharian. Many of them believe that the December 28 shooting was the work of Kocharian’s political opponents. In a commentary earlier this month, the state-run Armenian Public Television warned that those who attribute it to the parliament massacres will be held responsible for Naghdalian’s death.
The channel broadcast on Monday night a live interview with Gagik Jahangirian, the chief military prosecutor and the head of the parliament attack inquiry. Jahangirian declined to confirm or deny any suggested theory of the killing. He also said that the parliament video, which was broadcast worldwide, is currently examined by forensic experts so that the investigators can determine whether or not Yunoshev’s allegations are true.
Yunoshev, meanwhile, insisted that an 11-minute episode of the 1999 bloodbath was deleted from the videotape which is seen as the most important evidence of the crime. He again based the claims on the findings of unnamed Russian experts. Naghdalian, he said, would have faced difficult questions about them if he had testified at the continuing trial of the gunmen led by former journalist Nairi Hunanian.
Hunanian and Naghdalian had known each other since their study at Yerevan State University in the 1980s. Hunanian briefly worked for state television in 1998-1999.
Yunoshev said the ringleader entered the parliament building on October 27, 1999 with “false documents” provided by Naghdalian. The latter was repeatedly interrogated by the military prosecutors. According to Jahangirian, they did not find any evidence of his involvement in the attack that left premier Sarkisian and seven other officials dead. Hunanian, for his part, insists that the decision to storm the National Assembly was entirely his.
The Sarkisian family and some other relatives of the assassinated officials continue to suspect Kocharian of involvement in the massacre and accuse him of obstructing justice. Kocharian and his supporters vehemently deny the charges.
Yunoshev said he will soon unveil a new videotape testifying to the presence of unidentified armed men inside the parliament compound while Hunanian’s gang held hostage dozens of deputies and government members.