By Shakeh Avoyan
Two close relatives of Tigran Naghdalian, the slain head of Armenia’s state television and radio, said on Friday that they believe the perpetrator of the shooting is among six men reportedly arrested in connection with the politically charged case.
The victim’s brother, Samvel Naghdalian, effectively confirmed that the person accused of personally shooting the TV chief last December is a resident of Nagorno-Karabakh named John Harutiunian. The suspect’s identity, which is officially kept secret, was first disclosed earlier in the day by a pro-government weekly newspaper.
Samvel Harutiunian told RFE/RL that both he and his father have already been brought face to face with the suspect and remember seeing him in and around their apartment building in Yerevan shortly before the killing. He said his father had repeatedly bumped into the man in the courtyard. “My father recognized him by face, while I clearly remembered his pointed chin,” he said, adding that he saw the man running out of the building 20 minutes before the murder.
Naghdalian’s brother had claimed previously, both in his testimony to state prosecutors and in interviews with RFE/RL, that he does not remember how the man looked, saying only that the latter wore a wool hat.
Naghdalian, who strongly backed President Robert Kocharian, was found fatally wounded in the building’s entrance after a single shot in the head.
News of the arrests was unexpectedly announced late on Wednesday. It coincided with the announcement of first official results of the presidential election which gave Kocharian a landslide victory. The law-enforcement authorities have since refused to divulge any information on the arrested individuals, saying that they are now hunting for several more persons also involved in the crime. According to Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, they will likely release further details of the inquiry in the “coming days.”
Samvel Naghdalian suggested that the arrests were made before the presidential run-off and were not publicized because “some of those people could somehow be involved the elections.”
None of the leading opposition parties supporting presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian has reported arrests among their members and supporters connected with the case.