Armenia: Former Presidential Candidate Gets 14 Years for Alleged Murder Conspiracy
One of Armenia's stranger political dramas reached a concluding chapter on September 23 with the sentencing of former presidential candidate Vartan Sedrakian to 14 years in prison for the attempted murder of fellow former candidate Paruyr Hayrikian.
The storyline might almost fit one of the Armenian epic poems in which Sedrakian is a self-described expert. Hayrikian, a Soviet-era dissident, was shot and wounded on a Yerevan street on January 31, a few weeks before the February 18 presidential election. After considerable vacillation by Hayrikian, the election was not delayed, but speculation over the shooting simmered on.
Sedrakian, who, like Hayrikian, was never considered a prime contender for presidential office, was arrested in March for allegedly arranging the shooting. He maintains his innocence and, according to his lawyer, plans to appeal the ruling against him to the Strasbourg, France-based European Court of Human Rights, a body which many South Caucasus residents tend to look on as a sort of US-style Supreme Court.
He charges that prosecutors never identified his motive and that the two men who allegedly attacked Hayrikian later withdrew their confessions, RFE/RL reported.
The duo, Khachatur Poghosian, the alleged gunman, and Samvel Harutiunian, received 14 and 12-year prison sentences, respectively.
Sedrakian, an occultist who predicted his own arrest, earlier had conceded that both men had worked for him as house painters. Reasons for his admitting such a detail if he had commissioned them to kill Hayrikian have not been made clear. He initially lay blame for the shooting on the Freemasons.
Hayrikian, who claims that he has survived six previous assassination attempts, said, of course, that he doesn't believe Sedrakian is the brains of the operation, but that, at this point, "I care very little about" the court ruling, Aysor reported.
Some critics may say the reason for that indifference is all too clear. In April, in what many claimed was an attempt to hush up the outcry over the affair, the government handed over 20.5-million drams (about $50,000) to Hayrikian in recognition of his "contribution to [Armenia's] independence." Officials maintained that the money was for treatment of his wounds. With the case against Sedrakian closed, the government now may well be heaving a sigh of relief. The attempt on Hayrikian did little to reverse Armenia's reputation for election-time violence. In 2008, ten people died during clashes between police and a crowd protesting election results that named Serzh Sargsyan as president.
Sargsyan again swept the polls this year. Hayrikian finished with just over one percent of the vote, while Sedrakian did not make it to one percent.