YEREVAN — Armenia’s top court has overturned an earlier decision by a lower court to release former President Robert Kocharian from custody following coup charges leveled against him.
Kocharian was arrested in July on charges stemming from his government’s deadly repression of opposition protests during the final weeks of his 1998-2008 rule.
He is specifically accused of illegally using force against opposition supporters who protested against alleged fraud in a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. Law enforcement authorities say that amounted to an overthrow of the constitutional order.
Eight protesters and two police personnel were killed when security forces repressed those protests on March 1-2, 2008.
Kocharian strongly denies the accusations, saying that Armenia’s current government is waging a political “vendetta” against him.
The Court of Appeals freed the 64-year-old ex-president on August 13, saying that the Armenian constitution gives him immunity from prosecution in connection with the 2008 violence. Both state prosecutors and Kocharian appealed against that ruling. The latter claimed that there were also other legal grounds for his release.
The Court of Cassation, the country’s highest body of criminal justice, rejected Kocharian’s appeal and only partly met the prosecutors’ demands. It ordered the Court of Appeals to examine the case anew. This means that the ex-president will not be held in detention pending another court ruling on his pre-trial arrest.
Kocharian announced his return to politics just days after his release from prison. He has since repeatedly accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government of endangering the country’s national security, undermining its relations with Russia, and lacking economic programs.
However, he has decided not to run in snap parliamentary elections slated for December 9.
Pashinian, who played a key role in the 2008 protests, has strongly defended the criminal case against Kocharian. “All murderers will go to prison,” he declared on August 17.