By Mark Dovich
On June 18, Armenia’s Court of Appeals granted a request by former President Robert Kocharyan’s defense team to release Kocharyan on bail in the amount of roughly $4.1 million.
However, it appears that Kocharyan, who served as president from 1998 to 2008, will not return to his private residence, but instead remain at the Izmirlian Medical Center in Yerevan, where he has been receiving treatment since late April. The reason for his hospitalization continues to remain unclear due to Armenia’s medical privacy laws. To that end, presiding judge Arsen Nikoghosyan also granted a separate request by Kocharyan’s defense lawyers permitting the former president to remain in the hospital until the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Armenia subsides.
Nikoghosyan’s decision to release Kocharyan on bail is the latest in a series of court decisions that have seen the former president alternatively detained and then released. Kocharyan was first arrested on June 25, 2019 on two charges: attempting to overthrow the constitutional order after the 2008 presidential election and accepting a large-scale bribe.
Less than two months later, the Court of Appeals released Kocharyan from detention, though the charges leveled against him remained in force. However, the Court of Cassation overturned that decision about three months later, as a result of which Kocharyan was again placed in pre-trial detention in December 2018.
Then, in May 2019, the Court of First Instance issued a decision that again released Kocharyan from detention after receiving assurances from Arkady Ghukasyan and Bako Sahakyan, the second and third presidents of Nagorno-Karabakh, that Kocharyan will comply with the criminal investigations and “not take actions unauthorized by the Criminal Code” while freed. Kocharyan himself was born and raised in Nagorno-Karabakh and served as the Karabakh’s first president from 1994 to 1997. In response to the court’s decision, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan urged his supporters to physically block the entrances and exits of the court building in an unsuccessful effort to prevent Kocharyan’s release.
Nonetheless, the Court of Appeals revoked Kocharyan’s release in a June 25, 2019 decision and again detained the former president. Kocharyan had been under arrest from that date until today’s decision by the Court of Appeals to release him again on bail.
The charge leveled against Kocharyan of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order refers to the events of March 1, 2008. On that day, following a disputed presidential election which saw Serzh Sargsyan, Kocharyan’s hand-picked successor, declared the official winner, police violently dispersed protesters in Yerevan, resulting in the deaths of 10 people. Kocharyan then declared a state of emergency, imposed a citywide curfew, and brought army units into the capital. Pashinyan was himself one of the organizers of the protests and was briefly jailed afterward as a result.
Since Pashinyan’s election following the 2018 Velvet Revolution, legal action has been initiated against several prominent figures connected with previous administrations. Aside from Kocharyan, criminal charges have also been leveled against former President Serzh Sargsyan, Constitutional Court President Hrayr Tovmasyan, former National Assembly Speaker Ara Babloyan, former Chairman of the State Revenue Committee Gagik Khachatryan, and, most recently, Chairman of the Prosperous Armenia Party Gagik Tsarukyan.
Photo credit: Photolur