By David Minie
Twice each year, my thoughts turn to the Armenian Genocide. On April 24, the anniversary date of the 1915 massacres orchestrated by the Turkish government. And on January 27, when 45 years ago Gourgen Yanikian assassinated two Turkish diplomats in Santa Barbara to avenge the genocide.
Yanikian, age 78 and a former Fresno resident, was charged with murder, and I was his prosecutor.
The aging Armenian had lured the diplomats to a cottage at Santa Barbara’s exclusive Biltmore Hotel, promising gifts of art treasures for their government. Instead, he pulled a Luger pistol from a hollowed-out book and emptied it at them. He then called the reception desk, announced he had killed “two evils,” and sat calmly on the patio awaiting arrest.
Yanikian’s purpose was to create an “Armenian Nuremberg” — a show trial to call world attention to the Genocide, as the Nuremberg trial had done with Nazi war crimes. And perhaps to be acquitted. Yanikian’s hope was not unreasonable.