YEREVAN — Armenia’s Court of Appeals upheld on Thursday a lower court’s decision to extend the pretrial detention of former President Robert Kocharian prosecuted on coup charges.
A district court in Yerevan allowed investigators on January 18 to keep Kocharian under arrest for two more months, refusing to free him on bail. The 64-year-old ex-president appealed against that ruling.
One of Kocharian’s lawyers, Hayk Alumian, denounced the higher court’s decision to reject the appeal. “This is a 100 percent political decision which was made as a result of a political order,” he told reporters. “There is zero jurisprudence behind this decision.”
Alumian said his client will challenge the decision in the higher Court of Cassation as well as the European Court of Human Rights.
Kocharian was arrested on December 7 on charges of overthrowing the constitutional order just weeks before serving out his second and final presidential term in April 2008. The Special Investigative Service (SIS) says that he illegally used Armenian army units against opposition supporters who protested against alleged fraud in the February 2008 presidential election. It denies any political motives behind the high-profile case.
The SIS has brought the same charges against three retired army generals, including former Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian. But it has not arrested any of them.
Kocharian, who ruled Armenia for ten years, ordered army units into central Yerevan on March 1, 2008 amid vicious clashes between protesters and security forces trying to disperse them. Eight protesters and two policemen were killed in that violence.
Kocharian again defended his actions when he spoke in the Court of Appeals last week. He said that he only ordered the generals to “ensure the army’s neutrality” during the post-election political crisis in the country.
Levon Ter-Petrosian Also Questioned as a Witness
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian was questioned by an Armenian-law-enforcement body on Thursday as a witness in its ongoing investigation into the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.
His press secretary, Arman Musinian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the interrogation lasted for around 90 minutes. Musinian gave no other details.
Ter-Petrosian, who served as Armenia’s first president from 1991-1998, was the main opposition candidate in the presidential held in February 2008. He staged nonstop street protests in Yerevan after rejecting as fraudulent official vote results that gave victory to Serzh Sarkisian, outgoing President Robert Kocharian’s preferred successor.
Citing the deadly violence, Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered Armenian army units into the capital. He accused Ter-Petrosian of attempting to forcibly seize power. Dozens of Ter-Petrosian allies, including Armenia’s current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, were subsequently jailed on charges of organizing “mass disturbances” which they strongly denied.