Armenian ex-president Robert Kocharyan to remain under arrest
Former president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan will remain under arrest after a court decision not to release the ex-president on the basis on a petition from his lawyers.The former Prime Ministers of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh also made a request to release Robert Kocharyan on bail.
In July 2018, Robert Kocharyan was charged with overthrowing the constitutional order. This was in reference to the March 1 events of 2008, when police dispersed a demonstration protesting the results of the 2008 presidential elections which had taken just shortly earlier. Military grade weapons were used to disperse the crowds, and 10 people, including two policemen, were killed in the process.
After the Velvet Revolution in the spring of 2018, the new government of Armenia took up the case again, and Robert Kocharyan was one of the first to be accused.
The first time he was arrested in the case was on July 28, 2018. The ex-president’s lawyers have repeatedly tried to convince the court to change the pre-trial measure. Twice they succeeded. The last time Kocharyan was arrested on June 25, 2019.
Robert Kocharyan was not present when the court announced its decision due to the fact that he had an operation on May 12.
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Who vouched for Kocharyan and why
The request was made by the former Prime Ministers of Armenia Vazgen Manukyan, Khosrov Harutyunyan, Karen Karapetyan, as well as the former Prime Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh Anushavan Danielyan.
Ex-Prime Minister of Armenia Karen Karapetyan explained why he decided to vouch for Robert Kocharian:
“First of all, like many, I am extremely interested in making sure that all the public’s questions regarding the March 1 case are answered, so that there are no gaps in the story and we don’t experience the corresponding fallout. Secondly, I respect and appreciate the contribution of Robert Kocharyan to the independence and establishment of Armenia and Artsakh [ed. Nagorno-Karabakh’s name for itself]. Thirdly, this lawsuit has lasted almost two years, and it is likely that it will carry on for a long time. It is for this reason that I filed a motion to amend his pre-trial measures.”
Earlier, the presidents of Nagorno-Karabakh, Arkady Ghukasyan and Bako Sahakyan, vouched for the release of the former Armenian president. In May 2019, the presidential petition was granted in a court of general law. However, on June 25, the Court of Appeals overturned this decision and Kocharyan was arrested once again.
The Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II also requested Kocharyan’s release from prison a month ago.
In an interview with a local publication, he said that the legal process is not the only factor that should be considered in regards to the the ex-president, and that they should also think about how to prevent the his health from deteriorating in light of the coronavirus epidemic. The patriarch spoke about the possibility of releasing Kocharyan, taking into account the opinion of his doctors.
The next day, the prime minister’s spokeswoman responded harshly to the Catholicos’s statement, saying “the government does not intend to comment on his ‘hopes and desires.’”
Why Kocharyan was not present when the decision was announced
The second president of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, was on the operating table on the morning of May 12.
Viktor Soghomonyan, the head of Kocharyan’s office, stated that Kocharyan has undergone three operations in the past six months, all due to the same health problem:
“There are very clear indications that Kocharyan developed this disease during his imprisonment. Experts say that he was not provided with satisfactory conditions to ensure a full recovery, and after every operation, he was not given the opportunity to undergo a full rehabilitation program in a medical institution.
Prior to this, Kocharian’s lawyers appealed to the court with a demand to release him from custody until the coronavirus pandemic ends. They also pointed out that Kocharyan is in the high-risk group, as he is over 60 years old and has health problems.
The case made it to UK bar association
UK barrister Edward Fitzgerald, who is also a member of the Queen’s Counsel, made a statement in early May in about the Kocharyan case. He spoke about the discrimination against the ex-president of Armenia, and how it should be ceased:
“I am certain that the ongoing gross violations against the second President of Armenia under the case of alleged overthrow of constitutional order will be included in the practice of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and will be described in academic books sooner or later. The violations have been thoroughly presented in the complaints of the ECHR and to international organizations and have been discussed on different platforms several times.
Even in its annual report released in April 2020, the Council of Europe Commissioner stated that the proceedings for the case of the events of March 1, 2008 must be implemented in strict observance of the principle of rule of law, independence of the judiciary, transparency and the right to a fair trial.”
According to Fitzgerald, he has information that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Armenia “groundlessly rejected the undertaking of measures to change the pre-trial measure for the second President of Armenia which, in essence, is a manifestation of gross discrimination, taking into consideration the fact that the pre-trial measure for several prisoners was recently changed due to the epidemic.”
The lawyer and member of the Queen’s Counsel concluded that the court must “immediately examine and satisfy the issue of change of pre-trial measure.”