A former Armenian presidential candidate charged with plotting to assassinate another hopeful received a major boost to his claims of innocence during his ongoing trial on Friday.
Samvel Harutiunian, another defendant, declared that the ex-candidate, Vartan Sedrakian, had no part in the January 31 shooting attack on Paruyr Hayrikian.
Harutiunian withdrew his incriminating pre-trial testimony against Sedrakian, saying that he gave it in a bid to “extort money” from the self-styled scholar who ran in the February 18 presidential election. “Vartan Sedrakian has nothing to do with the Hayrikian case,” he told a Yerevan court.
Harutiunian said he will elaborate on his motives after “consulting” with his lawyer, Gayane Galoyan. The latter said afterwards that her client’s statement took her by surprise.
Harutiunian and the third defendant, Khachatur Poghosian, were arrested just days after Hayrikian was wounded outside his Yerevan home. According to prosecutors, Poghosian was hired by Harutiunian to kill the prominent Soviet-era dissident on Sedrakian’s orders.
Sedrakian was arrested later in February. He has strongly denied any involvement in the shooting that nearly delayed the conduct of the presidential ballot.
“Thank God,” Sedrakian’s lawyer, Aleksandr Sirunian, said, commenting on Harutiunian’s statement. “He just told the truth: Vartan Sedrakian had nothing to do with that.”
However, the main trial prosecutor, Aram Amirzadian, insisted that there is sufficient evidence to convict the ex-candidate of murder attempt. Amirzadian said he will present it during further court hearings.
According to Armenia’s Central Election Commission, Sedrakian garnered 0.42 percent of the vote, compared with 1.23 percent polled by Hayrikian.