A US court ruled in favour of releasing Hampig Sassounian, who was convicted of killing a Turkish diplomat in Los Angeles in 1982. California Governor Gavin Newsom has said he will not appeal against the decision.

A file photo from the funeral ceremony of Turkish Consul General of Los Angeles Kemal Arikan.
A file photo from the funeral ceremony of Turkish Consul General of Los Angeles Kemal Arikan. (AA Archive)

Turkey has "strongly condemned" a US court's decision to release on parole an Armenian national who assassinated a Turkish diplomat in Los Angeles in 1982.

"Following the decision of Los Angeles County Superior Court that paved the way for the release of Armenian terrorist Hampig Sassounian who had murdered Kemal Arıkan, Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Los Angeles, California Governor Gavin Newsom stated that he would not appeal this decision. We strongly condemn this approach, that deeply hurts the conscience of the Turkish nation," a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said. 

Despite all the attempts made by the US administration, this “grave decision” is "incompatible with the universal principles of law and the understanding of justice." 

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'Sick and distorted ideology"

Noting that at least 58 Turkish citizens, including 31 diplomats, were martyred by Armenian terror groups, the ministry said: “At a time when hate crimes are on the rise and international solidarity is needed the most, the release of a brutal murderer with political motives harms the spirit of cooperation in the fight against terrorism."

"This murder, which the terrorist Sassounian committed in despicable manner and showed no sign of remorse during his 38-year sentence, will never be forgotten as a crime that represents a sick and distorted ideology," it added.

Turkey's Los Angeles Consul General Can Oguz general noted that releasing the assassin will set a dangerous precedent that will "only embolden violent extremists."

“It is a deplorable decision based on petty political considerations. Not appealing the Court’s order overturning the veto of Hampig Sassounian’s release is an utter and reckless disregard for the fundamental principles of the law," Can Oguz said in a statement.

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“On this occasion, we pay tribute to our fallen diplomat Kemal Arikan and all the martyrs who lost their lives in the attacks of Armenian terrorist organisations,” the ministry said.

Separately, the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan on Twitter paid tribute to assassinated Turkish diplomat Arikan. It said "releasing admitted and unreformed terrorist Sassounian convicted of murdering a diplomat would send a very wrong message and surely harm interests of diplomacy, especially in a state w/one of the world’s largest diplomatic corps."

State Department deeply disappointed

The Department of State is "deeply disappointed" by a court's decision, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday.

"Attacking a diplomat is not only a grave crime against a particular individual, it is also an attack on diplomacy itself," said Blinken in a statement.

The statement also added those who assassinate diplomats should receive the maximum sentence, and that "they serve those sentences without parole or early release."

Arikan, Turkey’s Consul General in Los Angeles, was martyred on January 28, 1982, by Sassounian and his accomplice Krikor Saliba on behalf of an Armenian terror group. Sassounian was arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

Fugitive terrorist Saliba was claimed to be killed in the Lebanese civil war in 1982.

The vast majority of the attacks on Turkish diplomats and citizens were conducted by ASALA and JCAG terrorist groups.

The assassinations took place in the US, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Lebanon, Greece, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, Portugal, Iran, and the UK.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies