Judge to deliver ruling on bail for Armenian ex president in two days
From morning to late evening yesterday, a Yerevan court continued to deliberate over the issue of whether or not to give bail to former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan.
The judge listened to all parties and retired to the deliberation room. He will announce his decision on May 18 at 16:00 pm
JAMnews will report on the verdict as it is delivered.
What is the ex-president accused of?
Robert Kocharyan is accused of ‘overthrowing the constitutional order’ – that is, complicity in the events of 1 March 2008, when 10 people were killed as a result of military grade weaponry being used to disperse demonstrators protesting the results of recent presidential elections.
Kocharyan has been under arrest since December 2018.
In February 2019, another charge was brought against him – that of receiving a bribe of 927 million drams [about $3 million]. The accusation was related to a statement in November 2018 by Silva Hambardzumyan about giving an alleged bribe. Her statement talked about the period of Kocharyan’s presidency.
“I made a deal with Arab businessmen, and in order for them not to get in the way, I paid both Armenian President Robert Kocharyan and Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan,” Hambardzumyan said at a press conference at the time.
Hambardzumyan said the affair concerned selling 100 percent of the shares of a mining company to an Arab sheikh. The amount of the transaction itself was 40 million dollars.
Kocharyan said that the second case was initiated against him in order to seize his property.
Court hearings going on fourth day. Details of the first three days below: Issue of bail for ex-president of Armenia drags on
A fourth day in court
The court allowed journalists to enter the courtroom directly.
Previously, they, like other attendees – both supporters and opponents – were in the hall, but behind glass. And they could not hear all the participants in the process, since the microphones provided only partially audibility.
On the fourth day, the situation in the courtroom heated up: disputes arose between prosecutors and lawyers. The defense demanded sanctions against the prosecutors for mocking them. Prosecutors said that earlier the lawyers allowed themselves mocking gestures. The judge urged everyone to behave with respect for the gravity of the procedure.
Defense presents its case
The defense demanded that Kocharyan be released on bail on the basis that while free, he did not interfere in the case investigation.
All four of his lawyers – a powerful group of well-known professionals in Armenia –thoroughly rejected all accusations against the ex-president. Their speeches were lengthy, they did not stop even when the prosecution or the judge insisted that they were already aware of the facts and circumstances.
Kocharyan defends himself
The ex-president himself also periodically made statements and supplemented the arguments of his advocates.
In his speech, he said that he was innocent and could not be blamed for the circumstances that were presented to the court.
He recalled that he went through the war and many other difficulties, and now he would not allow himself to hide from the court, and that for him, this is a matter of honor and dignity.
Moreover, the charges against him are insulting, he said, noting he would not remain silent.
Kocharyan said that he wants to speak in court and during the trial he will be the accuser on many points.
Kocharyan said that he was even uncomfortable that the current and former presidents of Karabakh had to come to court to act as guarantors for him.
Presidents as guarantors
Current president of Nagorno-Karabakh Bako Sahakyan and the ex-president, Arkady Ghukasian, have offered to act as guarantors and asked the court to release their colleague and friend, former president Robert Kocharyan.
On the very first day of the hearing, one of Kocharyan’s lawyers read out their appeal to the court:
“Considering the contribution of the first president of Nagorno-Karabakh and the second president of Armenia to the establishment of the two Armenian republics, his huge contribution to the Karabakh war and the formation of the Armenian army, we guarantee that if the preventive measure in the form of arrest ceases, Robert Kocharyan will show decent behavior, respond to summons by the investigating authority and will not commit actions forbidden by the Criminal Code.”
The court demanded that the guarantors should appear in court and personally familiarize themselves with their obligations in this capacity.
Bako Sahakyan and Arkady Gukasyan appeared in court on the fourth day.
This was explained by the fact that the current president of NK received a foreign delegation and could not come to Yerevan earlier. Both guarantors made a preliminary deposit of 500 thousand drams (approximately $1000).
The prosecutor’s case
The prosecutors remained unconvinced, and insisted that Kocharyan, given his financial and personal influence, would be able to interfere in the investigation and procedure of the trial if he was to be let out of prison.
The 1 March case and the charges against Kocharyan
Kocharyan has been in prison on charges related to the 1 March 2008 case since December.
At the time, Kocharyan was the outgoing president. Presidential elections were held in late February 2008, according to which the Central Election Commission announced Serzh Sargsyan the victor.
Protestors came out in support of the first president of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and demanded a recount.
The demonstrators were dispersed with military grade weapons and soldiers. 10 people were killed as a result.
Kocharyan has thus been accused of brutally dispersing the demonstration and overthrowing the constitutional system.
The investigation of the March 1 case did not move a single step forward since its occurrence until the Armenian Velvet Revolution, when revolutionary leader and PM Nikol Pashinyan made it a cornerstone of his government’s administration.
Thus, in July 2018, Kocharyan was charged, and arrested on July 28. However, two weeks later he was released. The Court of Appeals declared illegal the decision taken earlier by the court of first instance to detain him. The reason for the release was the provision of the Constitution on the immunity of Robert Kocharian as a former president.
Then, on November 15, the Court of Cassation sent the case to the appellate court to conduct a new investigation.
On December 7, 2018, the appellate court ordered the re-arrest of the ex-president.
From that day on, the second President of Armenia has been in prison.
Robert Kocharyan declares that the case against him is a vendetta, and that the current Armenian authorities are trying to take revenge on him.
Why does Kocharyan say his case is a political vendetta?
The current Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan was an active supporter of Levon Ter-Petrosyan in the 2008 presidential elections, and he actively participated in the protests that began after the announcement of the election results. After the tragic events of March 1, he went underground for a year and four months because of accusations of organizing mass riots.
On July 1, 2010 Pashinyan voluntarily went to the prosecutor’s office, was arrested and sentenced to seven years. After a year and 11 months, he was given amnesty timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the independence of Armenia.
Human rights activists believe that the authorities were forced to take this step under the pressure of international structures.