Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s office on Friday confirmed reports that he has received a letter from the jailed man who led a deadly attack on the Armenian parliament in 1999.
The office declined to disclose the content of the letter sent by Nairi Hunanian.
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 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. The gunmen were subsequently tried and sentenced to life in prison.
Hunanian became eligible for parole in October last year because of having spent 20 years in prison. He asked appropriate authorities to set him free. The application was rejected.
The jailed ringleader, who turned 54 recently, appears to have written to Pashinian shortly after law-enforcement authorities decided late last month resume a criminal investigation into the 1999 killings. They will presumably try to establish whether Hunanian’s armed group had powerful sponsors outside the parliament building.
Some relatives and supporters of the assassinated officials still suspect former Kocharian and his successor President Serzh Sarkisian (no relation to Vazgen), who was Armenia’s national security minister in October 1999, of masterminding the killings to eliminate powerful rivals. Both men repeatedly dismissed such suggestions during and after a serious political crisis caused by the killings.
Throughout his and his henchmen’s marathon trial Hunanian insisted that he himself had decided to seize the parliament without anybody’s orders.