By Karine Kalantarian
The man who confessed that he shot dead the chief of Armenia’s state television and radio, Tigran Naghdalian, on Tuesday dealt a blow to prosecutors’ case against the brother of opposition leader Aram Sarkisian accused of organizing the crime.
John Harutiunian, a resident of Nagorno-Karabakh who allegedly fired a single fatal shot at Naghdalian last December, retracted a pre-trial testimony in which he said it was made clear to him beforehand that he was hired by the Sarkisian brothers. Harutiunian told a Yerevan court that he did not write or even read the testimony and simply signed it on the investigators’ orders. He did not provide further explanations, refusing to answer questions from the judge and trial attorneys.
Similar claims were made in the court by another alleged hitman and Karabakh resident, Felix Arustamian. He too alleged that his pre-trial testimony was fabricated by the prosecutors.
The prosecution holds businessman Armen Sarkisian responsible for Naghdalian’s death, maintaining that he paid one of his distant relatives, Hovannes Harutiunian, $75,000 to arrange the contract killing. The charges are vehemently denied by Sarkisian as well as members and supporters of his politically active family. Some of them were present at Tuesday’s court hearing and reacted enthusiastically to John Harutiunian’s statement.
Armen Sarkisian’s lawyer, Robert Grigorian, demanded that the prosecutors demonstrate the video of the suspect’s earlier interrogation during the trial. The presiding judge, Saro Amirian, accepted the demand.
The prosecutors say that Armen Sarkisian sought to kill Naghdalian because he believed that the latter was involved in the October 1999 terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament in which his second brother, Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, was brutally assassinated.