Hampig Sassounian, the Armenian responsible for the killing of a Turkish diplomat in Los Angeles, was released from US detention after the parole board determined he is no longer dangerous.
Sassounian was arrested for the assassination of the Turkish consul general, Kemal Arikan, in Los Angeles on 28 January 1982. Working with an accomplice, Sassounian fired multiple shots at the Turkish diplomat’s car, killing him on the way to work. The pair fled, but Sassounian was later detained, found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. According to reports from the court case at the time, Sassounian said that the assassination was an act of revenge for the Turkish government’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide.
While Sassounian renounced terrorism in 2002, his parole appeals have been repeatedly denied, until December 2019, when the board of parole found him suitable for release based on time served and the remorse he showed. The decision to release Sassounian, which was initially overruled by California Governor Newsom, was however reconfirmed by the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
In a statement released on Friday, Sassounian announced his safe return to Armenia.
With the utmost happiness I am writing to you from Armenia.
After almost 40 years, I have the honor to be on Armenia’s soil, drink Armenia’s water, breathe its air and feel in a familial environment.
The support you have shown throughout the years has always encouraged me and has had a positive impact during my most difficult days.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to all those who wrote to me, visited me and have always kept me in their hearts.
Finally, I am home.
The spokesperson for the Turkish foreign ministry denounced Sassounian’s release in a statement on Friday, stating: "We consider this decision regarding the aforementioned terrorist a grave mistake and a concession to terrorism and we once again condemn it". He added that “it is obvious that such decisions will serve to the agenda of circles seeking to glorify terrorism as a functional tool that can be used for political purposes, not to the fight against terrorism".
The decision was also condemned by the head of press services for the Azerbaijani foreign ministry, Leyla Abdullayeva, who called the release of an “unreformed terrorist", “dangerous”.
source: commonspace.eu with the Armenian Weekly agencies
photo: Hampig Sassounian; The Armenian Weekly