Vladimir Arutyunian

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Vladimir Arutyunian
A photo of a white man wearing black sunglasses and a black leather jacket, with his right hand wrapped in a red handkerchief.
Arutyunian waiting with the hand grenade in a handkerchief
Born (1978-03-12) 12 March 1978 (age 39)
Tbilisi, Georgian SSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Georgian
Known for Attempted assassination of George W. Bush and Mikheil Saakashvili

Vladimir Arutyunian (Georgian: ვლადიმერ არუთუნიანი, Armenian: Վլադիմիր Հարությունյան; born 12 March 1978) is a Georgian national who attempted to assassinate United States President George W. Bush and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili by throwing a hand grenade at them on 10 May 2005. The attempt failed when the grenade did not detonate. He was later arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

Background[edit]

Vladimir Arutyunian, a Georgian citizen and ethnic Armenian, was born on 12 March 1978 in Tbilisi, Soviet Georgia. Arutyunian lost his father at an early age and lived with his mother, who was a stall-holder at the local street market. They lived in one of the poorest suburbs of Tbilisi. After completing his secondary education, he had no fixed occupation.[1]

He joined the Democratic Union for Revival party led by Aslan Abashidze in January 2004, but soon after left the organization's ranks.[2] The Revival party was joined by Arutyunian in the same month Mikheil Saakashvili became president of Georgia, and had led Adjara in a crisis by refusing to obey the central government authorities. Saakashvili and his party were considered to be pro-United States, while Abashidze and his party were considered to be pro-Russia.[3] The crisis had ended in later 2004 without bloodshed.

Assassination attempt[edit]

Presidents George W. Bush (left) of the U.S. and Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia (right) in Tbilisi on 10 May 2005

On 10 May 2005, Arutyunian waited for the United States President George W. Bush and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to speak in Tbilisi's central Liberty Square. When Bush began speaking, Arutyunian threw a Soviet-made RGD-5 hand grenade, wrapped in a red tartan handkerchief, toward the podium where Bush stood as he addressed the crowd. The grenader landed 18.6 metres (61 ft) from the podium, near where Saakashvili, his wife Sandra E. Roelofs, Laura Bush, and other officials were seated.[4]

The grenade failed to detonate. Although original reports indicated that the grenade was not live, it was later revealed that it was.[5] After Arutyunian pulled the pin and threw the grenade, it hit a girl, cushioning its impact. The red handkerchief remained wrapped around the grenade, and it prevented the striker lever from releasing. A Georgian security officer quickly removed the grenade, and Arutyunian disappeared.[4][6]

Arutyunian later explained that he threw the grenade "towards the heads" so that "the shrapnel would fly behind the bulletproof glass".[7] Bush and Saakashvili did not learn of the incident until after the rally.[8]

Investigation[edit]

On 18 July 2005 Georgia's Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili issued photos of an unidentified suspect and announced a reward of 150,000 lari (USD $80,000) for information leading to the suspect's identification.[9]

At the request of the Georgian government, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation began an investigation into the incident. Extra manpower was brought in from the surrounding region to help with the investigation. In one picture of the crowd, the FBI noted a man in the bleachers with a large camera. He was a visiting professor from Boise, Idaho. FBI agents contacted him and, with his photographs, were able to identify a suspect.[4]

Arrest[edit]

Acting on a tip from a hotline, police raided Arutyunian's home where he lived with his mother[10] on 20 July 2005. During an ensuing gunfight, Arutyunian killed the head of the Interior Ministry's counterintelligence department, Zurab Kvlividze. He then fled into the woods in the village of Vashlijvari on the outskirts of Tbilisi. After being wounded in the leg, he was captured by Georgia's anti-terror unit.[11]

DNA samples from the man matched the DNA samples from the handkerchief. Georgian police later found a chemical lab and a stockpile of explosives Arutyunian had built up in his apartment.[4] Twenty liters of sulfuric acid, several drawers full of mercury thermometers, a microscope, and "enough dangerous substances to carry out several terrorist acts" were found.[12]

Trial[edit]

I don't consider myself a terrorist, I'm just a human being.
—Arutyunian[10]

After his arrest, Arutyunian was shown on television admitting from his hospital bed that he had thrown the grenade. He said that he had attempted to assassinate both presidents because he hated Georgia's new government for being a "puppet" of the United States.[10] He further stated that he did not regret what he did and would do it again if he had the chance.[13]

Arutyunian initially admitted his guilt when arrested but refused to cooperate during the trial. He pleaded not guilty, then refused to answer questions in court.[6] His lawyer Elisabed Japaridze said after the conviction and sentencing that she would appeal. "I consider that everything was far from proved."[13] She cited the fact that Arutyunian's fingerprints were not found on the grenade. However, prosecutor Anzor Khvadagiani said that the grenade being wrapped in cloth explained the lack of distinguishable fingerprints and also that DNA tests of material found on the cloth matched Arutyunian's.[13]

Prison sentence[edit]

On 11 January 2006 a Georgian court sentenced Arutyunian to life imprisonment for the attempted assassination of George Bush and Mikheil Saakashvili, and the killing of Officer Kvlividze. In September 2005, a United States Federal Grand Jury also indicted Arutyunian, and could ask to extradite him if he is ever released. He is not eligible for parole, and could only be released under a presidential pardon.[14][15]

While in prison in February 2010, Arutyunian converted from the Armenian Apostolic Church to Islam, grew a beard and learned Arabic as part of his new faith.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Пожизненный срок за попытку убить сразу двух президентов [A life sentence for attempting to kill two presidents]" (in Russian). Vremya.ru. 12 January 2006. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "В МВД Грузии заявляют, что напавший на Буша не связан с какими-либо группировками [In the Georgian Interior Ministry claimed that attacked Bush is not associated with any groups]" (in Russian). Kavkaz-uzel.ru. 11 November 2005. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "Georgia: A Swan Song for the Gray Fox of the Caucasus?". Stratfor. 21 November 2003. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d "The Case of the Failed Hand Grenade Attack: Man Who Tried to Assassinate President Convicted Overseas". Federal Bureau of Investigation. 11 January 2006. Retrieved 2015-12-06. 
  5. ^ Terry Frieden (7 September 2005). "Alleged would-be Bush assassin indicted". CNN. Retrieved 2007-03-22. 
  6. ^ a b Nick Paton Walsh (19 May 2005). "FBI says hand grenade thrown at Bush was live". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2007-03-22. 
  7. ^ Alfano, Sean (23 July 2005). "Man Details Failed Grenade Attack". CBS News. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  8. ^ Pace, Gina (11 January 2006). "Life For Grenade Toss At Bush Rally". CBS. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  9. ^ "Bush grenade suspect faces charge". BBC. 22 July 2005. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  10. ^ a b c "Georgian jailed for Bush attack". BBC. 11 January 2006. Retrieved 2014-12-09. 
  11. ^ "Shoot-Out Ends Georgian Manhunt For Grenade Suspect". RFE/RL. 21 July 2005. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  12. ^ Parfitt, Tom (12 January 2006). "Bush's would-be assassin begins life term". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  13. ^ a b c "Man sentenced to life for tossing grenade at Bush". USA Today. 11 January 2006. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "Bush grenade attacker gets life". CNN. 11 January 2006. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  15. ^ Ryan Chilcote (11 January 2006). "Bush grenade attacker gets life". CNN. Retrieved 2007-03-22. 
  16. ^ "Giant leap of faith for failed Bush assassin". RT. 12 February 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2015.