Armenia remembers victims of 1999 parliament attack
Acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and other officials laid down flowers yesterday at the memorial dedicated to the victims of an attack on parliament which took place on 27 October 1999. The politicians were joined by relatives of MPs who died in the attack.
What happened on 27 October 1999
An armed group forced their way into the National Assembly of Armenia 19 years ago on 27 October 1999. The group said they were carrying out a coup d’état and demanded that MPs turn off their cell phones and lie down on the floor.
The group was led by a man named Nairi Hunanyan. The journalists who were present in the National Assembly later reported that Hunanyan approached then-Prime Minister of Armenia, Vazgen Sargsyan, and said the following phrase: “Stop drinking our blood.” Sargsyan replied: “Everything that is being done is for you and your children.” Hunanyan responded by opening fire and killing Sargsyan.
Seven other people were killed that day, including parliamentary speaker Karen Demirchyan.
Witnesses say shots were heard on the street. Thousands of people gathered outside the parliament building half an hour later. Forces from the Ministry of Internal Affairs also assembled at the scene.
The armed group took around 50 deputies hostage and demanded to have direct talks with President Robert Kocharyan.
Negotiations then took place. The group demanded to go live on air as well as to be guaranteed a fair trial.
The hostages were released and members of the armed group were arrested on 28 October.
What happened to the armed group and the witnesses of the terrorist attack
All the members of the group, except one, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The leader of the group, Nairi Hunanyan, continues to serve in prison. However, many of his accomplices, including witnesses of the terrorist attack, have died under unexplained circumstances.
Eduard Grigoryan, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for participating in the 27 October attack, died on 5 November 2017.
Prior to his death, he had threatened to tell everyone that the authorities were trying to hide key information from society in connection with the shooting.
Grigoryan reported chest pain before being taken to hospital where he passed away.
Eight others died before Grigoryan did – all of them either participants in the attack or witnesses to it.
In 2000 Norayr Yeghiazaryan, an electrician, died of an electric shock while in his prison cell. His autopsy report indicated that he died from a 220 volt discharge, while the press reported the presence of head trauma which the authorities failed to explain.
On 27 October 2004, Vram Galstyan, who was sentenced to life in prison for his participation in the attack, committed suicide. Vram Galstyan periodically stated during his trial that he was being given psychotropic drugs and was strongly urged to commit suicide so that people would not learn the truth.
In May 2010 Hamlet Stepanyan also died in the same penitentiary. He had been sentenced to 14 years in prison and would have been free in two years. His autopsy report stated that he died of a heart attack. However, those close to him said he had no heart problems.
Tigran Naghdalyan, a journalist and chairman of the Public Television Council who was closely acquainted with Hunanyan and was a witness in the 27 October case, was killed in 2002 in Yerevan when leaving his parents’ home.
In 2004, MP Mushegh Movsisyan got into an accident on the Aparan-Yerevan highway. He had been arrested for his supposed involvement in the 27 October case, but was later released. Movsisyan was operated on after the accident but never regained consciousness.
Rosa Hovhannisyan, a former nurse who was a member of parliament, died in the United States after an accident. She was in parliament on the day of the attack.
Hasmik Abramyan, an employee of the parliaments’ protocol department, hung herself in the National Assembly building in 2004. She was also listed as a witness in the case.
In 2014 one of the main witnesses, Tigran Nazaryan, a correspondent and commentator on the National Television of Armenia and a close friend of Hunanyan, died in the United States. He entered the National Assembly hall on the day of the terrorist attack and talked with the head of the armed group for about two hours.
Has the crime been solved?
The perpetrators of the crime were punished. However, many in Armenia believe that the attack was orchestrated by others whose names have still not surfaced.
The true motives for the crime remain unclear, though several theories exist. One such theory goes that the act was organized by special services of other states. Another version states that the crime was organized by then-president Robert Kocharyan who allegedly wanted to eliminate his political rivals – the same people who were killed during the terrorist attack: Speaker Demirchyan and Prime Minister Sargsyan.
Will the case be reopened?
Nikol Pashinyan says that the case will not be reopened unless new details and evidence emerge.