A convict sentenced to 14 years for his role in October 27, 1999 terrorist attack on Armenia’s National Assembly died in Nubarshen penitentiary on Saturday. Officials say Hamlet Stepanyan, 57, died of a heart attack.
On October 27, 1999, armed men invaded the National Assembly and assassinated eight high-ranking officials of Armenia, including then NA Speaker Karen Demirchyan, and Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan.
Led by Nairi Hunanyan, six attackers were put to prison after their surrender on the day of the attack.
In 2000, Norayr Yeghiazaryan, who sold weapons to the gang, died under unknown conditions in an isolated cell. In 2004, Vram Galstyan (uncle of Nairi Hunanyan) hanged himself from a bed-sheet in prison.
Hamlet Stepanyan is the third convict involved in the attack to die in prison.
The prosecution and lengthy trials that followed the attack failed to provide the Armenian public with credible explanation of the motives of the attack. Many speculated, that it was staged by president Robert Kocharian and his close ally Serzh Sargsian, Armenia’s Minister of Interior and National Security at the time. The attack toppled Armenia’s all-powerful prime minister Vazgen Sargsyan and crippled his support base in parliament, headed by his coalition partner, NA speaker Karen Demirchyan. This allowed Kocharian to cease being a marionette president and landing the helms of government into his hands.
Deaths of key witnesses in the case, often left unexplained, further fueled speculations, that someone too powerful to be reached by the law-enforcement staged the October 27 attack.
In 2002, Tigran Naghdalyan, 36, Chairman of the Board of the Armenian Public Television and a key witness of the case was shot dead at the doorstep of his apartment.
In 2004, National Assembly deputy Mushegh Movsisyan, 47, another key witness of the case, died of a car accident. The same year, Hasmik Abrahamyan, 45, an employee of the NA Protocol Department who was on the witness list was found hung in the NA building.
Even if Hamlet Stepanyan’s death in the series of deaths is a natural one, truly a result of a heart attack as claimed by prison officials, the authorities have to seriously consider, why does it trigger such a wave of mistrust and speculation 11 years after the bloody October 27 attacks…