STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — Karabakh’s current and former leaders called on Armenian law-enforcement authorities on Tuesday, May 7, to release former President Robert Kocharyan from custody pending the outcome of his upcoming trial.
In a joint letter to Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian, Karabakh (Artsakh) President Bako Sahakyan and his predecessor Arkadi Ghukasyan said Kocharyan should be able to attend Thursday’s official celebrations of Karabakh’s main public holiday. They cited his and other former Karabakh leaders’ “huge contributions” to the Armenian victory in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan.
Kocharyan ran the republic during and after the war before becoming Armenia’s president in 1998. His successor and another native of Karabakh, Serzh Sargsyan, will also participate in the official ceremonies in Stepanakert and Shushi, as will Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
Sahakyan and Ghukasyan also expressed readiness to offer “any public guarantee” that would enable Kocharyan to remain free at least until a court verdict on corruption and coup charges leveled against him. They said his release would send a “signal of solidarity and unity” to Armenians as well as Azerbaijan.
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General responded to the letter later in the day. In a statement, it said that it is no longer in a position to free Kocharyan because the high-profile investigation has already been completed and its findings sent to a court in Yerevan.
Law-enforcement authorities have until now opposed the ex-president’s release from pre-trial detention, saying that he could obstruct justice if set free. They ignored a similar appeal made by Karabakh’s three main parliamentary parties shortly after Kocharyan was again arrested in December.