The Pan Armenian Council of Western United States, a coalition of the 24 leading religious entities and organizations representing a broad spectrum of the Armenian-American community in California, on Sunday sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom calling “for a just decision to release Hampig Harry Sassounian on humanitarian grounds.”
Last month, despite the state board’s decision to grant Sassounian parole, Newsom opted to deny him the chance to be released from prison.
Below is the text of the Pan Armenian Council’s letter sent to Newsom.
June 8, 2020
The Honorable Gavin Newsom
Governor of the State of California
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Governor Newsom,
The Pan Armenian Council of the Western United States, consisting of a coalition of the 24 leading religious entities and community organizations in California and representing the largest Armenian community outside of the Republic of Armenia, hereby conveys to you its profound disappointment relative to your recent decision reversing the State of California Board of Parole Hearings’ decision to release Hampig Harry Sassounian, a son of the Armenian community, who seeks parole after serving 38 years in prison.
As history and evidence show, Mr. Sassounian has been serving a 25-years to life sentence, which started as a youth offender at the age of 19, for his role in the assassination of the Turkish Consul General to Los Angeles in 1982. Mr. Sassounian is now 57 years of age and has served more than the average life sentence of 25 years. After determining in 2017 that he had established his rehabilitation, the prior California Parole Board granted him parole, but this decision was reversed by then-Governor Jerry Brown. Your Parole Board did its own thorough investigation in 2019 and agreed with the prior Board that Mr. Sassounian is eligible for release.
Unfortunately, despite these specific and consistent findings by both Parole Boards, and for reasons that are inexplicable to us, you chose to veto that decision and deny his parole.
We had been especially encouraged by the fact that you, for many years, have had a close relationship with our community and that you have consistently exhibited a deep understanding of our history and the issues we currently face. Many of the faith leaders of our community and representatives of leading organizations have written letters to you unequivocally supporting Mr. Sassounian’s appeal for parole, all to no avail. This is why our disappointment with your stance in the Sassounian matter is compounded even further.
We would like to convey to you that our community stands united in its call for a just decision to release Hampig Harry Sassounian on humanitarian grounds, in light of his service for most of his life in prison. It is our strong belief that he has atoned for his action and has paid a dear price as punishment. The interests of justice call out for his release.
We stand ready to support Mr. Sassounian in all future appeals for his release, and we call upon you to effectuate a just and humanitarian result when the case reaches your desk once again in the near future.
We also request an opportunity for our coalition’s representatives to meet with you as soon as practicable, in order to further discuss this important matter in person.
Pan Armenian Council of the Western United States
Armenian Assembly of America
Armenian Bar Association
Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg of North America
Armenian Democratic Liberal Party, Western District
Armenian General Benevolent Union, Western District
Armenian Evangelical Union of North America
Armenian Missionary Association of America
Armenian National Committee of America, Western Region
Armenian Relief Society of Western USA
Armenian Revolutionary Federation of Western USA
Armenian Society of Los Angeles
Armenian Youth Association of California
Armenian Youth Federation of Western USA
Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society of the Western USA
Homenetmen Western USA
Iraqi Armenian Family Association of Los Angeles
Kessab Educational Association
Organization of Istanbul Armenians
Service Employees International Union Local 721 – Armenian Caucus
Southern California Armenian Democrats
Tekeyan Cultural Association
Unified Young Armenians
Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America
Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America