Sunday, October 26, 2014


Caucasus Report

Lawyer Claims Accused 'Lacked Motive' To Murder Armenian Presidential Candidate

Former Armenian presidential candidate Vartan Sedrakian (left) at the start of his trial for allegedly hiring two men to assassinate a rival politician.
Former Armenian presidential candidate Vartan Sedrakian (left) at the start of his trial for allegedly hiring two men to assassinate a rival politician.
The lawyer representing Vartan Sedrakian, who is accused of hiring two men to assassinate Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hairikian on the eve of the February 2013 presidential ballot in which both were candidates, continues to argue that Sedrakian had no motive to kill Hairikian. That statement could be open to question, however, in light of a payment of $100,000 that the investigation determined Sedrakian received  in November 2012 from a person whose identity remains unclear.

Speaking in court on August 27, Aleksandr Sirunian said the prosecution has not established the motive for the attack on January 31 in which Hairikian was shot twice in the shoulder.

Sirunian further claimed that the prosecution's case against Sedrakian is based exclusively on the testimony of Hairikian and Sedrakian's two co-defendants. Sedrakian has consistently denied any role in the attack.

Khachatur Poghosian and Samvel Harutiunian were arrested one week after the assault and confessed to it within days, but their motive remains unclear.

Sedrakian, a hitherto obscure self-proclaimed expert on myths and epic poetry, predicted on February 12 that the authorities would to try to frame him for the crime because of his ties to the suspected perpetrators.
Paruyr Hairikian shortly after the shooting attack in January.Paruyr Hairikian shortly after the shooting attack in January.
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Paruyr Hairikian shortly after the shooting attack in January.
Paruyr Hairikian shortly after the shooting attack in January.

One of them was among several construction workers who remodeled Sedrakian's country house last year, while the second drove a taxi that the builders used regularly.

Sedrakian also said that he paid both men to distribute his election campaign booklets to voters.

Sedrakian had predicted he would win the February 18 election with 81 percent of the vote, dismissing rival opposition candidates Hairikian and former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian as spent forces. 

He said his primary motivation for running for office was to "restore justice" in Armenia. He also pledged that, if he was elected, Armenia would recognize Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent sovereign states. 

In the event, incumbent President Serzh Sarkisian won reelection with 58.64 percent of the vote, defeating six challengers. Hairikian placed fourth with 1.23 percent, and Sedrakian sixth with 0.42 percent.

The three suspects went on trial in mid-May. Questioned on June 12, Hairikian identified Poghosian as the man who opened fire at him. Poghosian, for his part, said he intended only to intimidate Hairikian, not to kill him.

Retracted Testimony

On the basis of Harutiunian's pre-trial testimony, the prosecution claims that he hired Poghosian at the behest of Sedrakian, who paid him $1,000 to "scare" Hairikian.

In court, however, Harutiunian retracted that testimony and said Sedrakian had nothing to do with the shooting.

Harutiunian later told the court that he incriminated Sedrakian in an attempt to coerce him to pay $5,000 Sedrakian owed him for the construction work on his house.

Poghosian also retracted his pre-trial testimony, in which he had claimed that Sedrakian summoned him and Harutiunian and asked them to intimidate President Sarkisian’s son-in-law Mikael Minasian by setting fire to his car when his bodyguards had absented themselves.

Poghosian also told investigators that Sedrakian had similarly discussed intimidating Hairikian and an unnamed newspaper editor, but subsequently told them to leave the latter in peace and focus on Hairikian. Poghosian said he planned to fire his gun into the air, and that he injured Hairikian purely by accident.

The prosecution, however, dismissed as "not credible" the statements by Harutiunian and Poghosian exonerating Sedrakian of intent to murder.

Prosecutor Aram Amirzadian further maintained that Sedrakian hired the two men "to put an end to Hairikian's political activities."

In late July, the prosecution demanded prison sentences of 12 years for Sedrakian, 13 years for Harutiunian, and 14 years for Poghosian.

Meanwhile, on his Facebook page two weeks ago, Hairikian posted what he described as "a draft of a draft letter" to Armenian Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepian .

Hairikian noted that the pre-trial investigation determined that Sedrakian received a payment of $100,000 in November from a person whose identity remains unclear, but failed to include that sum in the declaration of his income and assets that he submitted with his application to register as a presidential candidate.

Hairikian demanded that Hovsepian open a criminal case against Sedrakian for that deception.
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About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.