Suspicious Death: October 27 accomplice dead by heart attack in prison

Suspicious Death: October 27 accomplice dead by heart attack in prison


Court trial of October 27 case (archive photo)

An inmate sentenced to 14 years for his role in the October 27, 1999 terrorist attack on the Armenian Parliament died inside Nubarshen penitentiary on Saturday (May 15).

According to prison officials, Hamlet Stepanyan, 57, died of a heart attack. He is the third among six defendants of the controversial case who died in prison, leading human right defenders to question whether the death was by natural causes.

Michael Baghdasaryan, member of the Public Monitoring Group at the Penitentiaries of the Ministry of Justice, says that Stepanyan was generally healthy; he only had some respiratory track problems.

“Now it is too early to say whether or not the heart attack was a result of some meddling, but we have some doubts, however they are not grounded,” Baghdasaryan told ArmeniaNow.

On October 27, 1999, armed men invaded the National Assembly of Armenia shooting eight high ranking officials of Armenia, including then NA Speaker Karen Demirchyan, and Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan.

Led by Nairi Hunanyan, six defendants have been in prison since their surrender on the day of the attack.

In 2000, Norayr Yeghiazaryan, who had sold weapons to the gang, died under unknown conditions in an isolation cell. In 2004, Vram Galstyan (uncle of Nairi Hunanyan) committed suicide by hanging from a bed sheet. Throughout his trial Galstyan claimed that authorities had injected him with psychotropic drugs, and that they pressured him to commit suicide “so that the truth remained unrevealed.”

Stepanyan’s trial ended December 2, 2003, and his sentence would have been completed in about three years.

“It is hard to believe in so many accidental deaths linked with such a controversial case,” Human Rights defender Michael Danielyan, Chairman of Armenian Helsinki Association says.

“It is extremely suspicious to see that the defendants of this case are disappearing little by little. This tendency shows that the traces [of the assassinations] are being dredged up,” Danielyan told ArmeniaNow.

Human right defenders’ suspicions increase even more when synthesizing the death cases of witnesses linked with the October 27 case.

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. Armen Sargsyan (brother of assassinated Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan) was accused and imprisoned for Naghdalyan’s murder, however, suspicion has surrounded Naghdalyan’s death that he was assassinated as an October 27 witness.

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 hanged in the NA building.