YEREVAN — A court in Yerevan on Saturday ordered Armenia’s former President Robert Kocharian released from prison pending the outcome of his and three other former officials’ trial on coup charges.
Announcing the decision, the judge presiding over the trial, Davit Grigorian, cited written guarantees of Kocharian’s “adequate behavior” which were signed by the current and former presidents of Nagorno-Karabakh during a court hearing on Thursday.
Kocharian, who governed Armenia from 1998-2008, was set free about an hour later, according to his lawyers.
The trial prosecutors said they will appeal against the judge’s decision which sparked jubilant scenes among Kocharian supporters present in the small courtroom. The latter included his two sons.
Hundreds of Kocharian backers and critics of the 64-year-old ex-president demonstrated, meanwhile, outside the court building in the city’s Nor Nork district. Riot police deployed additional forces there to keep the two rival groups apart.
Kocharian was first arrested and charged in July with overthrowing the constitutional order in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008, two months before he served out his second and final presidential term.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) says that he illegally used Armenian army units against supporters of his predecessor and main opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian, who protested against alleged electoral fraud. Kocharian denies the accusation as politically motivated.
Eight protesters and two police officers were killed in street clashes that broke out in central Yerevan late on March 1, 2008. Citing the deadly violence, Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered army units into the capital on that night. Nobody has been prosecuted in connection with those deaths.
The same coup charges were also leveled against Kocharian’s former chief of staff Armen Gevorgian and two retired top army generals, Seyran Ohanian and Yuri Khachaturov. The three men, who have not been held in pre-trial detention, deny them.
Earlier this year, Kocharian and Gevorgian were also charged with bribe-taking.