On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a written statement through the State Department declaring his disappointment towards the parole of Hampig Sassounian, an American citizen of Armenian origin who killed Turkey’s Consul General Kemal Arıkan in Los Angeles back in 1982. In the statement, Blinken expressed his prioritization of the security of diplomats anywhere in the world and advocated for the highest punishment for the assassination of diplomats, while also emphasizing that attacking a diplomat is not only a serious crime against an individual but also an attack against diplomacy itself.
On the morning of 28 January 1982, Sassounian and his accomplice Krikor Saliba assassinated the Turkish Consul General with gunfire while he was waiting at a red light on his way from home to the Turkish Consulate. Sassounian was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment without amnesty. Krikor Saliba, who escaped from the scene of the crime, was allegedly killed in the Lebanese Civil War the same year. The terrorist group Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide (JCAG) took responsibility for the assassination.
In 2002, prosecutors agreed to drop the national-origin-based special circumstance of the case, which would have made Sassounian eligible for parole, on the condition that he would admit his guilt and formally apologize for the assassination. The California Prison Parole Board rejected demands for Sassounian’s release in 2006, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2017, and 2019 before eventually being granted parole this year.