PanARMENIAN.Net - The trial on the case launched February 15, 2001, with brothers Nairi and Karen Hunanyan, Edik Grigoryan, Vram Galstyan, Derenik Bejanyan and Ashot Knyazyan given life terms. (Galstyan died in prison in 2004, suicide named the official cause of death.) Hamlet Stepanyan was sentenced to 14 years in jail. (He died in custody in May 2010.) The group was found guilty on charges of high treason and terrorism.
The trial on the case lasted 3 years. Neither the preliminary investigation nor the court examination shed light on whether the terrorists acted on their own or on someone’s instigation. A separate case aiming to uncover possible masterminds behind the crime reached an impasse.
At the time, investigators, on the insistence of the government, focused on a version suggesting the country’s leadership was involved in the shooting. However, political opponents of then president Robert Kocharyan found no evidence to support the version, despite the fact that it was present-day oppositionists that presided over the cabinet of ministers and controlled the prosecutor’s office.
The leader of the group, however, continues insisting the terrorist act was meant to “rid Armenia from the anti-national regime,” with the other perpetrators sharing the view. According to the testimonies, PM Sargsyan was the only target of the attack, with other victims killed by chance. The perpetrators intended to force the hostages into announcing dissolution of the parliament and launch of democratic elections. Hunanyan meant to assume leadership before the results of the election. Wednesday’s question and answer session at the parliament was picked for the terrorist act, finding weapons and infiltrating the government building proving an easy task. However, contrary to Hunanyan’s expectations, his call to fellow citizens to support the revolution was met without enthusiasm.
Attempts to politicize the case had been made throughout the period of investigation, with the killed leaders’ brothers’ currently heading the parliamentary opposition exacerbating the fact. Several reasons caused the case to drag out for 3 years: presidential and parliamentary elections contributed to the delay, as well as Armenia’s newly-assumed obligation to the Council of Europe to abolish capital punishment. Opposition insisted on executing the terrorists, to loud objections from Strasbourg. The country’s political leadership took half a year to persuade legislators to refuse the idea of execution for Hunanyan.