YEREVAN (RFE) — Relatives of opposition protesters killed in the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan on Tuesday decried former President Robert Kocharian’s perceived plans to return to the political arena and warned opposition groups against cooperating with him.
They said that Kocharian has no moral right to again govern Armenia because of his key role in the deadly break-up of street protests against vote rigging in the February 2008 presidential election, which formalized the handover of power from Kocharian to Serzh Sarkisian.
Eight supporters of the main opposition presidential candidate, Levon Ter-Petrosian, and two police servicemen were killed as security forces tried to disperse thousands of people who barricaded themselves in downtown Yerevan on March 1-2, 2008. Kocharian vigorously defended the use of lethal force at the time, saying that it thwarted a coup d’etat planned by the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition. The latter insisted, however, that the authorities deliberately killed people to enforce the official results of a rigged election.
More than 100 Ter-Petrosian loyalists were arrested and charged in the following weeks. By contrast, no law-enforcement officials or other individuals were prosecuted in connection with the ten deaths.
“I would advise Robert Kocharian not to return to politics. Shame on him,” Sargis Kloyan, whose son Gor was among the victims, said, commenting on the ex-president’s latest public statements that have stoked fresh speculation about his political comeback.
“He must be expelled from Armenia.” Kloyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I am sure that one day he will go on trial. He may have forgotten our loss, but we haven’t.”
“It’s amazing that Kocharian is now criticizing those for whom he stained his hands with blood,” said Alla Hovannisian, the mother of Tigran Khachatrian, another young man killed in the unrest. “There is a lot of apathy, but it doesn’t mean that the people have forgotten what Kocharian did.”
“I don’t believe that there are disagreements between [Kocharian and Sarkisian,]” added Hovannisian. “I believe that there is some secret deal to promote Kocharian. They are making fun of us.”
Both parents stressed that they believe the current and former presidents are equally responsible for what was the worst street violence in Armenia’s history. They also rebuked opposition forces for their muted reaction to Kocharian’s possible comeback.
“Their kids didn’t die and they stayed away from trouble,” Kloyan said of unnamed opposition leaders. “But I can’t forget [what happened in 2008] because I’m raising [Gor’s] orphaned kids.”
“I am surprised that nobody is reminding Kocharian of the blood on his hands,” said Hovannisian. “A political force standing by Kocharian would be an enemy of the Armenian people.”