The jailed man who led a deadly attack on the Armenian parliament in 1999 has asked authorities to release him on parole, it emerged on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Armenia’s Penitentiary Service said Nairi Hunanian, who is serving a life sentence, is eligible for parole because of having spent 20 years in prison.
The official, Nona Navikian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Hunanian’s application is already being considered by a relevant state body. It will respond to him within an 80-day period, said Navikian.
An obscure former journalist, Hunanian led an armed group that burst into the National Assembly and sprayed it with bullets on October 27, 1999. Then Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six other officials were killed in the shooting spree that thrust Armenia’s government into turmoil.
Hunanian, who will turn 54 in December, accused the government of corruption and misrule and called for regime change as he held dozens of parliament deputies and government officials hostage following the killings. He and the four other gunmen, including his brother Karen and uncle Vram Galstian, surrendered to police after overnight negotiations with then President Robert Kocharian. Several other men were also arrested in the following days.
The gunmen were subsequently tried and sentenced to life in prison. Throughout the marathon trial Hunanian insisted that he himself had decided to seize the parliament and try to topple the government without anybody's orders. But many in Armenia still believe that the ringleader and his accomplices had powerful sponsors outside the parliament building.