Armenian who killed Turkish consul in Los Angeles to walk free

Los Angeles, March 12 (AFP/APP): An Armenian man jailed in California for the 1982 murder of the Turkish consul in Los Angeles will be released on parole, the governor’s office confirmed Thursday.

Hampig Sassounian, who is now 58, was jailed in 1984 for opening fire on Turkish diplomat Kemal Arikanwhen after he had stopped at a traffic light on January 28, 1982.

Sassounian, an Armenian immigrant who was living in the suburbs of Los Angeles, was initially sentenced to life behind bars with no chance of parole, but an appeals court overruled that judgment.

In 2002, he signed a declaration renouncing terrorism and was sentenced to life in prison, and to serve a minimum of 25 years. He had applied for parole on several occasions, unsuccessfully until now. But a Los Angeles judge recently granted it and a spokeswoman for California Governor Gavin Newsom, who had previously opposed the measure, said Thursday he had decided not to challenge the ruling. “The governor has carefully weighed the factors in this case and will not pursue an appeal,” the spokeswoman said.

The US State Department issued a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed” about the forthcoming release. “Attacking a diplomat is not only a grave crime against a particular individual, it is also an attack on diplomacy itself,” it said.

“To ensure the safety of the dedicated US diplomats serving around the world, it has been the longstanding position of the United States to advocate that those who assassinate diplomats receive the maximum sentence possible, and that they serve those sentences without parole or early release,” it said.

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