By Ruzanna Stepanian
Senior government officials and opposition leaders marked on Wednesday the fifth anniversary of the 1999 massacre in Armenia’s parliament with separate visits to the graves of its two most prominent victims: Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian.
The annual low-key ceremonies again began at the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan where Sarkisian, the most revered founder of the Armenian army, was laid to rest alongside hundreds of Armenians who died during the 1991-94 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian visited it in the morning together with members of his government, parliamentarians and senior law-enforcement officials. “The 1999 terrorist act pushed Armenia several years back,” Markarian said after laying flowers at his murdered predecessor’s grave. He said the two assassinated leaders laid the groundwork for Armenia’s economic recovery.
President Robert Kocharian again did not visit Yerablur. A wreath was placed there on his behalf by officials from the presidential administration.
Leaders of the Armenian opposition, notably Sarkisian’s brother Aram and Demirchian’s son Stepan, visited the cemetery in the afternoon. Sarkisian’s mother Greta was also among them. “You were betrayed and hit from behind,” he said, sobbing by his gravestone.
The relatives of the murdered leaders, who staged Tuesday a rally in Yerevan on the occasion, again accused the Armenian authorities of obstructing justice. “A full and comprehensive investigation of this case is possible only after regime change,” claimed Aram Sarkisian.
The inquiry was for years led by Gagik Jahangirian, Armenia’s controversial chief military prosecutor. The investigators seemed to share the widely held belief that the five gunmen that seized the National Assembly on October 27, 1999 had powerful backers. They claim to have continued to look for possible masterminds of the attack even after the gunmen went on trial in 2001. The investigation was transferred under the jurisdiction of Prosecutor-General’s Office last year for unknown reasons.
Speaking to journalists at Yerablur, Jahangirian was asked whether he thinks the crime will ever be solved. “The course of the investigation will show,” he replied vaguely. “There is no time limit on the investigation. It is endless.”
Also visiting Yerablur was Samvel Babayan, the former commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh who was released from jail in mid-September nearly four years after being arrested in Stepanakert on coup charges. Babayan, making his first public appearance in Yerevan, was visibly moved as he approached and kissed Vazgen Sarkisian’s tombstone. He refused to talk to reporters, promising to hold a news conference “in four or five days.”
(Photolur photo: Babayan visiting Yerablur on Wednesday.)