Thursday, 20 September

Who gives the order to shoot?



There are no eyewitnesses

Tigran Naghdalyan, the chairman of the Board of Directors of Armenian Public Television and Radio, was shot in the head and killed on December 28, 2002.

Naghdalyan was shot point-blank and wounded while leaving his parents' house at about 6:50 p.m. He died in the hospital two hours later.

Tigran's brother Samvel told us that he had seen a stranger at the front entrance of the house 20-25 minutes before the incident, when he was returning home from work. The stranger was wearing a cap and hastily left the entrance covering his face. This is the only evidence about the assassination. And in all probability it will remain the only evidence.

None of the 22 taxi drivers that we have talked to, who park their cars daily across from the Shirak Hotel had had a male passenger or had seen anybody running or leaving in a hurry in the evening hours of December 28. The waiters at the nearbyZakian Streetcafes could not give us any useful information. They learned about the murder either after getting home or the next day. The young men living in the neighborhood that we met did not tell us anything either. Because of the very cold and foggy weather, almost nobody was outside at the time. So far there is no clue, no information that points in any given direction.

Prime Minister Andranik Margarian called the assassination of Tigran Naghdalyan an act against freedom of speech and democratic values in the country. The Foreign Ministry qualified it as a crime committed against the progressive forces of our society. The Dashnaktsutyun party, in its official statement, qualified the murder as an act of terrorism.

Who, over the years, organizes such assassinations inArmenia, who directs them, who gives the orders? Let us note who has weapons at hand - officers of the Ministries of Defense, Interior, and National Security, war veterans, hired assassins. Hired assassins may be from one of these structures; they may also be called in from abroad, for example, fromRussiaor another country. Let us recall that there are a large number of Armenians in criminal gangs operating inRussia. If we consider the trials for the sensational killings of recent years we will see that in almost every case, the main players were representatives of these structures or groups.

The law-enforcement agencies, as always, have taken urgent measures. According to our information, tens of people have been arrested, some of them detained, searches have been made, illegal weapons have been discovered. When analyzing the information about these actions, it may be said with confidence that the law-enforcement agencies could have taken all these measures before Naghdalyan's murder. In the days following every other sensational assassination they have done almost the same thing. They have information, lists of possible suspects, they know who possesses illegal weapons. However, they do not "disclose" anything because there is a time for everything. The time will come, the occasion will arise, and they will take the necessary steps. They must show the public that they have carried out operative actions, and note down later on in their reports what measures were taken, how many people were arrested, what quantity of illegal weapons was confiscated. Such activity is necessary for the entire system in particular and for the government in general. A great number of illegal weapons are circulating inArmenia. And, as a rule, weapons get used one day.

Naghdalyan was in the pyramid of power

Tigran Naghdalyan was the chairman of the Board of Directors of Armenian Public Television and Radio. He was appointed to this post by President Robert Kocharian for six years. Before that, he was the executive director of National Television. He was appointed to that post in 1998 when Robert Kocharian was the Prime Minister and was running in the presidential election. Tigran Naghdalyan was a key figure on Kocharian's team, and was the executor of its political propaganda. "He was one of five men most trusted by the president", is how Naghdalyan is characterized by an official close to the president who wished not to have his name published.

Tigran was a professional journalist. Many of his former colleagues who disapproved of his involvement in politics unambiguously note his professionalism. In his programs he would not expose or criticize government officials for wrongdoing. He would calmly, self-confidently propagandize Robert Kocharian's political course. From time to time, he would make certain opposition figures his target and would hurl at them epithets and characterizations of his own device. The TV-program he hosted, Orakarg (Agenda), would almost always present President Kocharian's achievements. Many people did not like this optimistic program, sometimes, even in Kocharian's inner circle. They found that there is a moment when such programs have an opposite effect and become anti-propaganda. Some people compared him with Alexander Iskandarian, who performed similar duties under Levon Ter-Petrossian. Many politicians attributed to Iskandarian and his Sunday TV-program Zhamanakatsuyts (Chronometer) the main role in the development of the negative societal perception of Ter-Petrossian. However, we must emphasize that these two programs cannot be compared from the point of view of professionalism.

For the past several months, rumors had been circulating about Naghdalyan's transfer to another job. The word was that he was going to be sent abroad as an ambassador. Tigran Naghdalyan himself denied this story in an interview with Radio Liberty. His relatives too told us that Naghdalyan had not received such a proposal, otherwise he would have told them.

Versions of Naghdalyan's assassination

We don't yet know what versions of the killing law enforcement agencies are considering, we don't think there is any sense in expecting any results. Everything points to this conclusion. Simply, the chain of murders is lengthening and it seems that there is no end to it. The first question that arises after such assassinations is why people kill. The answer is tangibly clear-cut: because there are a large number of illegal weapons inArmenia. There are numerous cases of murders with unregistered weapons "deposited" in the Ministries of Interior, National Security and in the Office of General Prosecutor.

Suffice it to give one example (I am still working on this case): In August 1996 inYerevan, Abraham Khamissyan, an officer of the Ministry of Defense and a former member of ASALA, was murdered while walking out of his garage. In October 1997, another former member of ASALA, businessman David Davidyan, was murdered in broad daylight in front of his house. Later on it was ascertained that both murders were committed with the same weapon. At that time, in 1997, Serge Sargissian, who was the minister of the joint structure of Interior and National Security, stated during a press conference, "In some six months we will discover the criminal".

The criminal has not, of course, been found, and the man with that weapon is in all probability still walking the streets ofYerevan, and may fire any time he receives an order or money. Khamissyan was fromLebanonand had just moved toArmenia; Davidyan too had lived inLebanonfor several years. Both were from the "Revolutionary Movement" of ASALA or, as is customary to say, they were from Monte Melkonian's wing. The reference to these cases is not accidental. According to one of our sources, about a month ago, Tigran Naghdalyan received an E-mail fromLebanonwith threats to kill him. This information has not been confirmed through other sources.

There are many versions of Naghdalyan's murder circulating in various circles. Of course, some of them are the ones put forward by the law-enforcement agencies.

Version # 1

The first reaction was to qualify it as a "political assassination". This was pronounced first and so steadfastly that, in all likelihood, it will remain the main version. The same evening, the text of a statement by president Robert Kocharian was disseminated: "Those people, who attach no value to human life, who cannot be at peace because of the country's stability and progress…. - those people defied the entire society", said Kocharian. He also assured us, "Everything will be done to find and punish the authors and perpetrators of this cowardly crime".

There is one circumstance that may also become central for the law-enforcement agencies. The time for Tigran Naghdalyan's testimony in court in relation to the October 27th case was approaching. There are numerous questions that he was supposed to answer. In particular, Vazgen Sargissian's representatives claim that the videotape recorded in the National Assembly hall had been edited. This was confirmed by an expert examination carried out inMoscow. The next question is how and why Tigran Nazaryan, a reporter for the Haylur TV news program, an employee of Public Television and a witness in the October 27th case moved with his family to theUnited States. The questions related to the October 27th case that Tigran Naghdalyan was supposed to give answers to are numerous. Those who insist on this version say, "There are forces who have done everything to prevent Tigran from answering these questions". According to Tigran's friends, he had already answered all these questions.

To be continued


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