By Armen Zakarian
The pro-presidential majority in the Armenian parliament has accepted opposition demands to enact legal guarantees that the gunmen who stormed it four years ago will never regain their freedom, a top opposition lawmaker claimed on Tuesday.
Victor Dallakian of the Artarutyun bloc told RFE/RL that an agreement to deny Nairi Hunanian and his four accomplices, widely expected to be sentenced to life imprisonment, the right to eventual parole was reached during talks with unspecified majority leaders. He said the National Assembly will pass, in the first reading, corresponding amendments to Armenia’s new criminal code as early as next Monday. They will be approved in the second, final reading two days later, he added.
“I am sure that the president will sign the bill into law by November,” Dallakian said.
The initiative, announced last week, follows the opposition’s failure to leave a legal loophole allowing death sentences to be passed on the five perpetrators of the attack whose trial is now drawing to a close. The new criminal code, passed under strong pressure from the Council of Europe, fully and unconditionally replaced capital punishment with life imprisonment.
The code currently stipulates that life convicts can be considered for parole after spending at least 20 years in prison. Under the opposition amendments, those serving life terms for any type of murder will be stripped of that right.
The measure, though primarily intended for the parliament attackers, would also affect those prisoners whose death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by President Robert Kocharian in August. But having already spent years on the death row, many of them are unhappy even with the current version of the code, saying that they do not want to serve 20-year sentences before being entitled to an early release. They argue that the maximum prison sentence was previously set at 15 years. Some claim that they were convicted unjustly and want to be retried.