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Killer of Turkish Diplomat in 1982 Loses Bid for Parole

September 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

A man convicted for the 1982 murder of a Turkish diplomat in Westwood was denied parole Thursday.

Harry Sassounian, 43, will not be eligible for parole again until 2010, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Sassounian's attorney, Mark Geragos, said he didn't view Thursday's decision as a setback, arguing that it is rare for parole to be granted on the first try.

"The parole commissioners were very complimentary of his chances next time around," Geragos said in a telephone interview.

Turkish Consul General Kemal Arikan was killed Jan. 28, 1982, while stopped at a traffic signal. Sassounian was 19 at the time. A second gunman was never caught.

In 2000, a federal appeals court upheld Sassounian's murder conviction but overturned the special-circumstance conviction, which alleged that Arikan was killed because of his nationality.

A jail informant testified that Sassounian told him he killed the 54-year-old diplomat as revenge for the deaths of about 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Turks late in the 19th century and early in the 20th century.

The reversal threw out Sassounian's sentence of life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors later agreed to drop plans to retry Sassounian on the special-circumstance allegation, allowing him a chance at parole in exchange for his denouncing of terrorism.

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