One security guard is dead and the Turkish ambassador is severely injured following an attack on Turkey's embassy in Ottawa. At 7 a.m., three well-armed men drive up to the gate of the Turkish Embassy in a rented moving truck. They shoot the guard outside his bulletproof enclosure, vault the fence and blast their way into the embassy with explosives.
"Spectators Weep (sic! ) As 3 Sentenced To Life In Turkish Embassy Slaying"
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Once inside, the gunmen – who describe themselves as "Armenian revolutionaries" – take the embassy's occupants hostage and begin to negotiate. But rather than talking to police, they spell out their demands to CBC Radio's Vince Carlin, saying they want the Turkish government to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1915.
At one point, the Turkish ambassador attempts to escape by jumping out a second-storey window. Four hours after it began, it's all over when the attackers lay down their guns in exchange for a police promise not to shoot. The other hostages are released unharmed, but the ambassador is left with a broken leg, arm and pelvis.
Did you know?
• This was the third assault on Turkish diplomatic staff in Ottawa by Armenian attackers in three years.
• In April 1982, the embassy's commercial counsellor was shot and critically injured in a parking garage. A group called the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia took responsibility.
• Four months later, in August 1982, the embassy's military attaché was shot to death as he drove to work. The Justice Commandos Against Armenian Genocide claimed responsibility.
• In 2004 the Canadian Parliament passed a bill acknowledging the Armenian genocide. The Canadian Press reported: "The Turkish government rejects the charge of genocide as unfounded and says that while 600,000 Armenians died, 2.5 million Muslims perished in a period of civil unrest."
• In 1915, in the midst of the First World War, the Turks deported about two million Armenians to outlying desert regions. The Turks' action was a response to its belief that Armenians had assisted invading Russian armies and that the Allied powers supported Armenian self-rule. It was during this time that the alleged genocide took place. Turkey, however, maintained that any deaths resulted from the chaos of deportation and local disputes.
• After the war, Armenia became a socialist republic which was later absorbed by the Soviet Union.
• Armenia is located northeast of Turkey and southwest of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. In 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up, Armenia and Azerbaijan both gained their independence.
• Three men, two from Quebec and one from Ontario, were charged with murder in the 1985 attack on the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa. They were: Kevork Marchelian, Rafi Panos Titizian, and Ohannes Noubarian. They said they were with the Armenian Revolutionary Army.
• In November 1986, an Ottawa jury found all three guilty of first-degree murder. They were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole in 25 years.
• After the conviction, Noubarian said in a statement that the three were "deeply saddened" by the death of the security guard, 31-year-old Claude Brunelle.
• Noubarian added that the trio's actions "sprang from the national ideals we shared. However, something undesirable and regrettable happened and Mr. Brunelle died, resulting in the clouding of our aims and our goals and also resulting in our persecution and trial as simple criminals."
Visitors From Turkey: Watch The Video From This Link
Broadcast Date: March 12, 1985
Guest(s): Fred Longchamps, William Orr, Gary Rae, Gerard Rouleau
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Mike Duffy, Don Newman, Vince Carlin
Copyright © 2011 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The storming of the embassy began shortly before 7 a.m., when three terrorists in a rented moving truck arrived at the embassy gate. They scaled the security gate and began shooting at the security hut. The security hut was a bulletproof enclosure guarded by Claude Brunelle, a 31-year-old student from the University of Ottawa, who worked for the private security firm Pinkerton's. As soon as the attack began, Brunelle called in the emergency code to his supervisor and left the bullet-proof enclosure to confront the terrorists. He fired four shots at the terrorists and took two shots in the chest, which killed him instantly.
Using a powerful homemade bomb, the terrorists blasted open the heavy front door of the two-storey, Tudor-style home and embassy office on Wurtemburg Street, in the capital's embassy district about two kilometers east of Parliament Hill. Once inside, they began rounding up hostages, including the wife of the Turkish ambassador, his teen-age daughter and embassy staff members– at least 12 people. Ambassador Coskun Kirca, a veteran career diplomat with United Nations experience, who had been in Canada less than two years, escaped by leaping from the second floor window at the back of the embassy, breaking his right arm, right leg and pelvis.
The police response was almost immediate. Within three minutes, officers were on the scene. Four hours later, the terrorists released all hostages and surrendered – they tossed out their weapons and came out of the building with their hands up, asking only that they not be shot by police. Earlier, in telephone conversations with reporters, they demanded, in exchange for releasing their hostages, that Turkey acknowledge what they called the 1915 Armenian holocaust and “return Armenian lands confiscated by Turkey”. The terrorists, who said they were members of the Armenian Revolutionary Army told Ottawa police they blasted their way into the Turkish embassy “to make Turkey pay for the Armenian genocide" of 1915.
This was the third assault on Turkish diplomatic personnel in Ottawa by Armenian terrorists in three years: in April 1982, the embassy's commercial counselor – Kani Güngör – was shot and critically injured in a parking garage. The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia quickly took credit for the attack, which left the attaché paralyzed. Four months later, in August 1982, the embassy's military attaché – Col. Atilla Altikat – was shot to death as he drove to work. The Justice Commandos Against Armenian Genocide claimed responsibility. In addition, other attacks by Armenians on Turkish targets, particularly diplomats, occurred in other countries during 1973-1994.
Indictment and trial
The attackers – Kevork Marachelian, 35, of La Salle, Quebec, Rafi Panos Titizian, 27, of Scarborough, Ontario, and Ohannes Noubarian, 30, of Montreal – were charged with first-degree murder of a security guard during the assault on the Turkish Embassy. They also faced charges of attacking the premises of a diplomat, endangering the life and liberty of Ambassador Coskun Kirca, setting off an explosion to get into the embassy and possessing grenades, handguns and shotguns. Chahe Philippe Arslanian, a lawyer for two of the accused, said that his clients were “not guilty". “It's evident that surely it was not a criminal act, but a political act," Mr. Arslanian told reporters. A year later, on October 14, 1986, the three men went on trial. An Ontario Supreme Court jury deliberated for 8½ hours before finding Mr. Noubarian, Mr. Marachelian, and Mr. Titizian guilty of first-degree murder. Mr. Justice David Watt imposed the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
After the jury gave its verdict and was dismissed, Mr. Noubarian told the court that what the three did "sprang from the national ideals we shared.” “However, something undesirable and regrettable happened and Mr. Brunelle died, resulting in the clouding of our aims and our goals and also resulting in our persecution and trial as simple criminals. But imprisoning individuals would not harm the Armenian cause. Individuals are mortal, but the Armenian nation lives and as long as it lives it will always demand its rights."
In February 2005 the National Parole Board of Canada decided to allow one of the men, Mr. Marachelian, to visit his family for the first time in 20 years. The board granted him two visits over the following six months, during which he had to be accompanied by a corrections officer.
Marachelian and Noubarian were released from prison on February 19, 2010.
Rafi Titizian was also released during April 2010 and sent to Armenia on the day of his release to join his family living in Armenia.
The attack on the Turkish Embassy was a major international embarrassment for Canada. For years, foreign diplomats in Ottawa had asked the Canadian government for better security, but to no avail. Turkey declared Ottawa to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for Turkish diplomats. Canada needed a unit that was capable of defeating a determined and well-armed group of militants. This need was ignored until the March 12, 1985 attack on the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa. The event changed the Canadian government's attitude toward militants and set in motion a chain of events that would eventually lead to the creation of Joint Task Force Two.
Claude Brunelle was awarded the Star of Courage for delaying the assailants long enough to allow the Turkish Ambassador to escape.
Ottawa Citizen, Ontario, Canada March 7, 2005 Monday Final Edition
Turkish diplomat survived 1985 embassy siege: Ambassador hurled himself out window during attack
by Nick Petter, The Ottawa Citizen
On a cold Tuesday in March 1985, the Turkish ambassador to Canada threw himself out a second-storey window to escape a squad of terrorists armed with assault rifles and hand grenades who were storming his Ottawa embassy. Twenty years later, the events of that morning's siege are still fresh in the memories of those who were there.
"It's as if it happened yesterday. I remember everything," says Ottawa police Const. Michel Prud'Homme, the first officer to respond to the embassy siege.
What Const. Prud'-Homme did over the next four hours that day would earn him the Medal of Bravery and save the life of the then-Turkish ambassador, Coskun Kirca.
After the attack, Mr. Kirca remained in Canada as the ambassador for several years before returning to Turkey, where he served in many high-level state posts, including foreign minister. Mr. Kirca died of a heart attack last Thursday in Istanbul at the age of 78. He was laid to rest the next day, almost exactly 20 years after his brush with death in Ottawa.
On the morning of March 12, 1985, a cold rain was spitting on the windows of Mr. Kirca's bedroom at the Turkish Embassy in Sandy Hill. Out front, a security guard at the compound was about to finish his 12-hour shift.
It was just before 7 a.m. when the guard saw a U-Haul van backing up to the three-metre-high embassy wall. When the van hit the wall, its doors burst open and three heavily armed terrorists, members of the Armenian Revolutionary Army, climbed up the van and down the fence.
"Code red, code red, they're shooting at me," the guard yelled into the radio in his steel-fortified guardhouse as its windows exploded around him. He left the guardhouse and fired four shots from his.38-calibre revolver. One of the three attackers returned fire with a 12-gauge shotgun. The fatal shot hit the guard in the chest, knocking him off his feet.
The three men then ran to the heavy oak front door of the embassy. In front of it they placed a package wired to a motorcycle battery.
An RCMP officer later testified that this home-made bomb had blown open the embassy doors with such force that he found oak splinters embedded in a brick wall across the street.
Ercan Kilic, 16 at the time, was asleep in the basement. He lived there in an apartment with his parents, who were both embassy support staff. Twenty years later, he still remembers the terrible violence of the explosion that woke him.
"My mother woke up first and went upstairs to find out what was going on. She realized the embassy was being attacked when she saw one of the gunman," he says.
As she hurried back to warn her family, the gunman threw a grenade down the stairs after her.
"They found the grenade at the bottom of the stairs," Mr. Kilic says.
An explosives expert with the Ottawa police testified later that the grenade's pin had been pulled and its fuse had burned, but it somehow did not explode. He also noted that it had landed next to a propane tank. Had it exploded, the entire embassy would have been destroyed.
"At the time, I was in a panic. I didn't realize what was being thrown because of the sound of guns going off, the explosions everywhere," Mr. Kilic says.
Mr. Kilic, whose English was better than that of his parents, was told to call for help. With the sound of heavy footsteps, screaming, and gunfire overhead, he ran to a phone and contacted the police. Several minutes later, Const. Michel Prud'Homme, then only 25, was first to respond.
"I saw a person lying on the ground next to the embassy. I didn't know who it was at first," the officer says now, recalling the situation.
Const. Prud'Homme jumped the fence, ran over the man splayed on the ground, and dragged him to the side of the house, out of the gunman's line of fire. "I was lucky, I was very lucky," he says. "Because if I had arrived a minute or two later, I probably would have been shot by the terrorists. But I didn't learn about that until later."
He would also soon learn that the man he had helped was not the security guard who had been shot and killed, but the ambassador himself.
Mr. Kirca, perhaps trying to escape what he believed was certain death at the hands of the Armenian terrorists, had thrown himself out the window of his second-floor bedroom. His right arm, right leg, and pelvis were broken in the fall.
For almost five hours, in the cold and the pouring rain, Const. Prud'Homme kept Mr. Kirca hidden. "Had they known where we were, all they had to do was open a little window that was about six feet above my head and drop a grenade," the officer recalls. "They would have done us both in. They were there to kill him. They didn't care who they got in the meantime. So I would have just been collateral damage."
While Const. Prud'Homme was pinned down outside, and Mr. Kilic and his family were trapped in the basement, the terrorists upstairs talked to the press and negotiated with police.
"We are the Armenian Liberation army, and we got demands," one of the terrorists told a CBC Radio reporter. "We want our land back and we want the Turkish government to recognize the Armenian genocide in 1915."
The gunman had taken hostages: the ambassador's wife, his daughter, and a friend of his daughter's who had slept over. The friend was Mr. Kilic's 13-year-old sister.
"We knew nothing about what was going on. We assumed that the ambassador and his family had been killed, including my sister," Mr. Kilic says.
The hostages were finally released and Mr. Kirca recovered from his injuries at the National Defence Medical Centre.
After returning to Turkey, some of Mr. Kirca's political opponents later questioned his actions of that day in March. "I saw him being questioned in Turkey at one point by people who asked him, 'Why did leave your wife and your daughter to the mercy of the terrorists?'" says Fazli Corman, counsellor at the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa.
"But for most it was seen as a courageous act to save his life and the honour of the ambassadorship."
Before his posting to Canada, Mr. Kirca served as Turkey's permanent delegate to NATO, and then the United Nations.
Mr. Kirca left politics on Dec. 5, 1995, when he resigned from prime minister Tansu Ciller's cabinet after participating in an unsuccessful bid to postpone an election. It was then that he began writing an influential column for a centre-right Turkish newspaper, Aksam. As a foreign policy analyst, he was known for his hawkish positions.
Mr. Kirca warned his government that if it was not careful, it could lose control of some territory to separatist movements in Cyprus and southeastern Turkey. He also supported the policies of U.S. President George W. Bush in the region, writing that "Turkey should not disappoint its main ally, the United States."
His hardline stance on Turkey's conflict with Greece over Cyprus made news in 1999, when the Turkish press found out that his daughter, Selcan, had married Dimitri Papadopulos in 1998, the son of a retired Greek air force general.
Mr. Corman says Mr. Kirca will be remembered above all for the ordeal he endured in Ottawa in 1985. Although attacks on Turkish ambassadors were not uncommon between 1973 and 1986, the siege of Mr. Kirca's embassy was headlined in all the Turkish papers.
The events of that day, says Mr. Corman, remain vivid to the members of the Turkish Foreign Service, particularly to him. "My window looks out onto the Rideau River. It's the same window Ambassador Kirca threw himself out of."
In 2004, Canada became one of the few countries to formally recognize as genocide the deportation and subsequent death of as many as 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turkish military after the First World War.
Armenia has been independent since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1992, and the Armenian Revolutionary Army has not committed an act of terrorism since 1986.
The three gunmen -- Kevork Marachelian, Ohannes Noubarian and Raffi Panof Titizian -- were sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole.
"I'm not sure how many of them are still in jail," says Mr. Corman. "We tried to get the information two years ago, by writing diplomatic notes, but we didn't receive anything out of it.
"It should be a diplomatic nicety to tell us. But we won't press ahead, because then it looks as if we are trying to get involved in the local affairs of Canada."
The National Parole Board decided last month to allow one of the men, Mr. Marachelian, to visit his family for the first time in 20 years. The board granted him two visits over the next six months, during which he must be accompanied by a corrections officer.
"We do not feel any animosity against these people," says Mr. Corman. "We don't want to track them or make life difficult for them. We just wanted them to face justice."
If the attack of 1985 happened today, it would probably be handled differently.
Before 1985, foreign diplomats in Canada had long complained about the lax security provided to the embassies in Ottawa.
After the attack, prime minister Brian Mulroney's Conservative government moved quickly to review Canada's counter-terrorism capabilities. The review led eventually to the creation of Canada's top-secret commando unit, Joint Task Force Two.
Ottawa Three Released
OTTAWA, Canada—On March 19, 2010
Raffi Titizian, who was detained in Canadian penitentiaries since 1985, at the end of a lengthy and step-by-step path of rehabilitation, was granted his conditional release by the Parole Board of Canada.
Following the attack on the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa, during which a guard lost his life, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The conditional release does not change said maximum sentence in law, but it does modify its terms of actual implementation.
Consequently, after having spent a quarter of a century behind bars, considering that a Deportation Order was issued against him by Immigration Canada, by virtue of the Canadian Laws and having obtained the necessary travel documents, on or about March 30, Raffi Titizian was deported.
Kevork Marashelian and Ohannes Noubarian, who received the same sentence for the same reasons, have also obtained the permission to reintegrate into society on February 19 and to return to their families, within the framework of the Canadian incarceration system of parole.