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From the January 2000 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 47, No. 01)

Armenia

Terror in Parliament

Steven Shabad, World Press Review contributing editor

In the aftermath of the shocking assassination of Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and Speaker Karen Demirchian, people in Armenia are mystified about the possible motives of the five terrorists who carried out the deadly attack.

Ara Tatevosian of the liberal weekly Moskovskiye Novosti in Moscow (Nov. 2-8) writes that during the ensuing hostage negotiations, the chief assailant, Nairi Unanian, complained about injustice and poverty and demanded that the government turn over full power to him.

Unanian, a former journalist, also ordered Armenian television to read his statement and broadcast his photograph, writes Tatevosian. When President Robert Kocharian told Unanian that the whole world already knew his face and biography, the president later recounted, “You should have seen this man’s eyes sparkle after I said that.”

Kocharian described Unanian as a “Herostratus,” a reference to the madman who burned down the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus—one of the Seven Wonders of the World—in 356 B.C.

As the investigation got underway, commentators offered other theories: Dmitry Sabov noted in the liberal  newsmagazine Itogi of Moscow (Nov. 2) that the late prime minister had declared war on corruption within the government, just a few days before his murder. “One can only guess which influential businessman or, perhaps, politician, may have [been] alarmed,” suggests Sabov.

The murderers face either sentences of 10 to 15 years in prison or the death penalty, reports Armen Khanbabian in Moscow’s liberal Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Nov. 3), depending on the outcome of a pending moratorium on capital punishment.

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