By Emil Danielyan
The judge who presided over the nearly three-year trial of the gunmen who seized Armenia’s parliament in October 1999 was promoted by President Robert Kocharian on Tuesday to run a district court in Yerevan.
In a decree made public by his press office, Kocharian appointed Samvel Uzunian as chairman of the court of first instance in the city’s Avan and Nor Nork districts. Uzunian previously worked at the court in another municipal district, Malatia-Sebastia.
The trial of the parliament gunmen, the most closely watched in Armenia’s history, ended on December 2 with five defendants, including ringleader Nairi Hunanian, sentenced to life imprisonment for their role in the bloody raid. Hunanian and his brother Karen went on a shooting spree inside the assembly, killing eight senior officials, including parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian.
Throughout the lengthy court hearings Uzunian was accused by some relatives of the victims of participating in a high-level cover-up of the killings which they continue to blame on Kocharian. Particularly controversial was his decision last August to cut short the trial by not hearing testimony from 101 witnesses. The judge accepted prosecutors’ argument that 29 other witnesses cross-examined during the proceedings provided sufficient information about the circumstances of the crime.
The trial was effectively suspended for six months in the first half of last year ostensibly due to Uzunian’s and defendant Vram Galstian’s illness. The relatives of Sarkisian and Demirchian attributed the delay to the 2003 presidential and parliamentary elections. They say Kocharian and his allies wanted to avoid negative publicity associated with the politically sensitive case.