Harry Sassounian

Harry M. Sassounian, also known as Hampig Sassounian, is serving a life sentence for the 1982 assassination of Turkish Consul General Kemal Arıkan (or Arikan) at a street intersection in Los Angeles, California, United States.

Harry M. Sassounian
Criminal statusin prison
VictimsKemal Arıkan


Arikan was gunned down in his car by two gunmen while waiting at a red light on the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Comstock Street in the Westwood area of Los Angeles. President Ronald Reagan condemned the murder as "an apparent act of terrorism".[1]

Sassounian, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon and hailed from a family of Lebanese Armenian emigres, was identified by witnesses as one of the two gunmen. During the trial, the prosecutors indicated that Sassounian "was motivated to kill Arikan by vengeance for the Armenian Genocide committed by the Turkish Ottomans of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923."

The jury determined that Sassounian, an Armenian immigrant formerly of Pasadena, California, shot Arikan to death, on January 28, 1982 at 9:40 am, and particularly that he singled out the victim because of the victim's nationality.[2] Sassounian was sentenced to life in prison; because the jury determined that the killing targeted Arikan based on his nationality, Sassounian was given no chance of parole.[3]

His justice costs were once paid by Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) using funds raised for this purpose.[4]

Eligibility for paroleEdit

In 2002, prosecutors agreed to drop the so-called "national origin" special circumstance of the case, making Sassounian eligible for parole, in exchange for his admitting his guilt and formally apologizing.[5] "I participated in the murder of Kemal Arikan," Sassounian read aloud from a letter detailing the plea bargain. "I renounce the use of terrorist tactics to achieve political goals. I regret the suffering of the Arikan family."[5]

The California Prison Parole Board rejected Sassounian's demands of release in 2006, 2010 and 2013.[6]

California Board of Parole granted parole to Sassounian on 14 December 2016.[7] Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the decision of his release and Turkish American groups urged the California Governor to deny parole. California Governor Jerry Brown denied the parole in May 2017 vetoing the board's decision. In a statement, Brown said he believes Sassounian would still pose "an unreasonable danger to society if released," adding that "The killing was a deliberate, planned assassination of a diplomat, plotted at least two weeks in advance."[8]

Similarly, on 27 December 2019, the California Board of Parole yet again approved the release of Sassounian. California's new governor Gavin Newsom reversed the parole decision on 25 May 2020[9] despite a collective plea of the Pan-Armenian Council of Western United States asking Newsom for the release of Sassounian.[10][11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ronald Reagan. Statement on the Assassination of Turkish Consul General Kemal Arikan, January 28th, 1982
  2. ^ PEOPLE v. SASSOUNIAN (1986) 182 CA3d 361, archived from the original on 1 June 2019, retrieved 29 December 2019
  3. ^ New York Times. Assassin Gets Life Term. June 16, 1984
  4. ^ Asbarez, October 15, 1983; The Armenian Weekly, January 14, 1984, pp. 1-6 ; Haïastan (Paris), special issue about Sassounian affair, February 1984; Haytoug, November-December 2000, p. 9; “Sassounian Thanks Community for Continued Support”, Asbarez, November 2nd, 2001; “More Than $70 000 Raised for Hampig Sassounian Defense Effort”, Asbarez, February 25, 2002; "Meeting the Man Behind the Idea", Haytoug, Spring 2008, pp. 7-8; Flyer of ARF, French branch, July 2008.
  5. ^ a b Laird, Lorelei (21 October 2002). "Sassounian Gets Life With Parole for Assassination in Sentencing Deal". Metropolitan News-Enterprise. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  6. ^ ATAA Assures California Prison Parole Board Denies Parole to Armenian Terrorist Sassounian Archived 2010-09-17 at the Wayback Machine; California Parole Board denies parole to Armenian terrorist Hampig "Harry" Sassounian Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Daily Sabah: California issues parole for Armenian terrorist serving life sentence for Turkish diplomat’s murder
  8. ^ Public Raduio of Armenia: California Governor vetoes parole for Hampig Sassounian, archived from the original on 12 October 2018, retrieved 29 December 2019
  9. ^ ANCA-WR: INDETERMINATE SENTENCE PAROLE RELEASE REVIEW (Penal Code Section 3041.2) - HARRY SASSOUNIAN, C-88440 signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, Governor of the State of California (25 May 2020)
  10. ^ Pan Armenian Council of Western U.S. Calls on Newsom to Release Hampig Sassounian, Asbarez.com, 8 June 2020, retrieved 10 June 2020
  11. ^ Siranush Ghazanchyan (5 June 2020). "ANCA-WR expresses concern over Governor Newsom's refusal to grant parole to Hampig Sassounian". Public Radio of Armenia. Retrieved 10 June 2020.