On November 18 the court of primary jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan announced the verdict on the murder of Tigran Naghdalian, the Chairman of the Council of RA Public TV and Radio Company.
The well-known 36-year-old journalist was shot dead in the evening of December 28, 2002, in the entrance of his parents’ home in Yerevan. In the evening of March 5, 2003 – after the end of voting in the elections of Armenian president – the law and order bodies announced the crime disclosed.
The court proceedings started on July 29 and ended in less than four months. The guilt of all the 13 defendants on the case was acknowledged by the court to be proved. The penalties imposed on them mostly coincided with the demands of the prosecutors.
Entrepreneur Armen Sargsian was recognized to be the orderer of the murder with aggravating circumstances for lucrative purposes and because of the professional and public duty of the deceased. Armen Sargsian was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. The same sentence was applied for the killer of the journalist, John Harutiunian. Another accomplice in the murder, Felix Arustamian, was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment, and the organizer of the crime Gegham Shakhbazian – to 11 years. While the other two key figures of this crime Hovhannes Harutiunian and Grigor Petrosian were also recognized to be accomplices in the murder, their penalties were mildened because of their assistance to the investigation – they were sentenced to 7 years imprisonment each.
Samvel Harutiunian and Samvel Abrahamian were sentenced to 1 year’s imprisonment for the concealment of the crime and illegal storage of arms. For the concealment of the crime one-year sentences were defined for Leva Harutiunian and Khachik Ahaginian. All the four of them were released from the courtroom due to the expiration of sentence term (a day of preliminary arrest is equal to 1.5 days of imprisonment).
Three other defendants – Nshan Muradian and Rafik Melkonian (for the concealment of the crime), as well as Armen Manasian (for the illegal storage of arms), who had a preventive punishment – the obligation of remaining in the place of permanent residence – were sentenced to 1 year’s imprisonment conditionally with a two-year deferral.
Meanwhile, on November 24 the Political Council of opposition "Republic" party made a statement, qualifying the conviction of Armen Sargsian (the brother of the RA Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian killed during the terrorist attack on the Parliament on October 27, 1999, and Aram Sargsian, the member of Political Council of "Republic" party ) as "political account settling" with the family of Vazgen Sargsian. In the opinion of the Political Council of "Republic" party, Armen Sargsian had no reasons to order the murder of Tigran Naghdalian first of all because, being a key witness on the case of terrorist attack on October 27, he could contribute to the disclosure of important circumstances of this crime by his testimony. Therefore, as the statement signatories believe, the murder of Naghdalian should be considered as an elimination of witnesses on the case of October 27. Thus, as the statements says, the case of Tigran Naghdalian’s murder "is not fully disclosed, the true organizers of the crime, possibly along with the direct implementers, have not been held to account, no justice has been made". Aram Sargsian himself said that he intends to challenge the court verdict on his brother with the supreme jurisdiction bodies.
YPC Comment: The murder of our colleague, the head of a leading Armenian medium, one of the founders of Yerevan Press Club does not cease to arise sadness and a sense of emptiness. The YPC statement disseminated one day after Tigran’s murder said that "whatever the motive for this crime is, it is another example of insolent defiance to our society and Armenian journalism, in particular”. This murder had no precedents in the history of independent Armenian journalism. Its disclosure has no precedents either: up to day this has been the first case when those guilty of violence against journalists are determined and punished. At the same time the opinions diverge not only in the society but also within the journalistic profession: some do not doubt the fairness of the punishment, others speak about the political persecution of the unwanted personalia. On our behalf we would express a wish that a tragedy similar to this assassination remain unprecedented and the disclosure of violence towards journalists and media (unfortunately the examples of these were not rare in 2003, either) become a norm and not an exception.