Robert Kocharyan

Yerevan Court Refuses to Free Kocharyan

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A district court in Yerevan rejected on September 17 former President Robert Kocharyan’s latest demand for his release from prison which followed a Constitutional Court ruling on coup charges brought against him.

The Constitutional Court ruled on September 4 that an article of the Armenian Code of Procedural Justice used against Kocharyan is unconstitutional because it does not take account of current and former senior Armenian officials’ legal immunity from prosecution.

Kocharyan’s lawyers seized upon that ruling to demand that their client be set free and cleared of the charges stemming from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. A district court judge, Anna Danibekyan, received a relevant petition from them when she resumed on September 12 Kocharyan’s trial suspended almost four months ago.

Danibekyan announced her decision to reject the petition at the start of the latest court hearing in the case. She did not immediately publicize the full text of the decision presumably containing her interpretation of the Constitutional Court ruling.

Kocharyan accused Danibekyan of ignoring the ruling when he reacted to her decision in the courtroom. His lawyers charged that the decision is the result of what they described as strong pressure exerted on the judge by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his political allies.

Pashinyan on Monday described the Constitutional Court ruling as “illegal,” citing dissenting opinions voiced by two members of Armenia’s highest tribunal. Also, the parliamentary leaders of his My Step alliance demanded that the court replace its chairman, Hrayr Tovmasyan.

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One of Kocharyan’s lawyers, Hayk Alumyan, said these statements were a “clear message” to Danibekyan to the effect that her decision to end the ex-president’s prosecution would also be deemed illegal. Another defense lawyer, Aram Orbelyan, claimed that “various people visited” the judge to warn her against ruling in Kocharyan’s favor. Orbelian did not elaborate on the claim which sparked vehement objections from trial prosecutors.

The judge presiding over the trial read out her decision as hundreds of vocal supporters and critics of Kocharyan again demonstrated outside the court building in Yerevan’s southern Shengavit district. Separated by riot police, they shouted insults at each other and chanted slogans in support and against the man who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008.

A smaller number of rival demonstrators watched the proceedings in the courtroom. Kocharyan’s detractors burst into applause when Danibekyan refused to free the 65-year-old ex-president.

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