On July 27, the Yerevan City Court of General Jurisdiction announced the detention of Armenia’s former President Robert Kocharyan (1998-2008). He has been charged with conspiring to overthrow the country’s constitutional order.
On February 19, 2008, Serzh Sargsyan became the president of Armenia. His opponent, the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossian and his supporters refused to accept the results of the election. For the next 10 days, there was round-the-clock sit-ins around the Opera, in Freedom Square. Then-President Robert Kocharyan announced a state of emergency and army subdivisions entered Yerevan. On March 1, government forces clashed with protesters resulting in the deaths of 8 civilians and 2 policemen, and roughly 300 injured. In the course of 10 years, no one has taken or borne any responsibility, including legal, for the deaths that occurred on March 1.
Similar charges of attempted government overthrow via street protests have been used by former presidents against opposition figures, including current prime minister Nikol Pashinyan who was charged by Kocharyan’s government. Under Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency, similar charges were brought against other opposition figures, while Kocharyan era detainees were dropped and given amnesty.
As of August 4, criminal charges related to the March 1 case have been filed against four people:
- Robert Kocharyan, Former President - charged; currently in custody
- Mikhail Harutyunyan, Former Defense Minister - charged; currently in Russia
- Yuri Khachaturov, Former chief of staff of the Armenian Armed Forces and current secretary general of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization - charged; released from custody with 5 million AMD bail.
- Armen Gevorgyan, Former head of Presidential administration, former Secretary of the National Security Council, former Deputy Prime Minister - charged.
This post will updated as the story develops.
Armenia’s General Prosecutor's Office rejects an appeal by 46 members of Armenia’s National Assembly and 15 members of the Nagorno Karabakh Parliament to release former President Robert Kocharyan from custody.
Criminal charges are filed against Armenia’s former Deputy Prime Minister, former Secretary of the National Security Council Armen Gevorgyan is indicted for the March 1 case. He is being accused of interfering with court activities.
Sasun Khachatryan, Head of the Special Investigation Service, stated that the charges were based on WikiLeaks publication made years ago.
Alexander Fomin, Deputy Minister of Defense of Russia, labels the information reported by Kommersant about the halting of Russian arms deliveries to Armenia as misinformation.
Kommersant, a leading Russian newspaper publishes a front-page article titled “The Actions of the new authorities in Yerevan annoy Moscow.”
“The discord in the relations between Moscow and Yerevan can also have a negative impact on the previously agreed deliveries of Russian arms to Armenia,” the article claimed, citing unnamed sources.
Robert Kocharyan’s lawyers submit a complaint against the decision to remand him. Forty one out of 105 deputies of Armenia’s National Assembly sign a petition for Robert Kocharyan’s release from custody. The petition is initiated by the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
The former ruling Republican Party condemns Kocharyan’s arrest, as do their past allies, the Dashnaktsutyun. By contrast, the Armenian National Congress, led by ex-president Levon Ter-Petrossian, welcomes Kocharyan’s arrest as “historic.”
The same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slams the new Armenian leadership for persecuting their political predecessors. “The events of the recent days are clearly going against the announcements by the new Armenian leadership that it did not persecute its predecessors for political reasons,” he says.
When questioned about Russian concerns over recent developments in Armenia, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of Armenia Tigran Balayan said, “the current developments in the justice system and the fight against corruption do not concern the foreign policy of Armenia and should not be viewed in that light.”
Yerevan City Court of General Jurisdiction approves the government prosecutors’ request to hold Kocharyan in pre-trial detention. Kocharyan is taken into custody the same day.
He becomes the first former head of state of a former Soviet republic to be jailed.
Robert Kocharyan arrives at Armenia’s Special Investigate Service (SIS) as a witness in the March 1 case and is immediately presented an accusation of toppling the constitutional order. Kocharyan refuses to testify. Charges carry between ten to fifteen years in prison. Asked whether then opposition leaders, including current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who at the time was an active leader of the movement, will be called to testify, the head of SIS said, “No person is off limits, any person who is able to provide information about this criminal case, can be called to testify.”
The same day, Kocharyan gives an interview to Yerkir Media TV during which he says the charge against him is “political persecution and vendetta.”
Head of the Special Investigative Service Sasun Khachatryan announces that Kocharyan has been served with an official notice for questioning, and he is expected to arrive in the country.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service “requests” that Robert Kocharyan appear for questioning regarding the events of March 1, 2008. Viktor Soghomonyan, who runs Kocharyan’s office, told that he hadn’t yet received any official notice from the SIS. At this time, Kocharyan is out of the country.