The former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Friday condemned as politically motivated coup charges brought against former President Robert Kocharian.
Another major party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), which is represented in the country’s current government, similarly expressed serious concern over Kocharian’s prosecution stemming from the 2008 poste-election violence in Yerevan.
“The accusation leaves the impression of purely political persecution and is ludicrous from the legal standpoint,” the HHK said in a statement.
“We consider the existing situation to be a threat to Armenia’s democratic development and a blow to efforts to build a full-fledged rule-of-law state,” added the party headed by Serzh Sarkisian, who succeeded Kocharian as president in April 2008.
The handover of power from Kocharian to Sarkisian followed a disputed presidential election marred by opposition allegations of serious fraud. Levon Ter-Petrosian, another ex-president and the main opposition candidate in the February 2008 election, staged daily demonstrations at the time to demand a rerun of the ballot.
Security forces broke up those protests on March 1-2, 2008. Eight protesters and two police personnel died as a result. Kocharian was charged in connection with the deadly violence on Thursday.
Dashnaktsutyun’s governing body in Armenia described the accusations levelled against Kocharian as “extremely concerning.” It said that “they can be interpreted as political persecution.”
In a statement, the Dashnaktsutyun leadership also warned that the case could undermine “national unity” and “faith in the Armenian army.” It cited a prominent role played by Kocharian in the 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Dashnaktsutyun, which is particularly influential in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora, was allied to Kocharian throughout his 1998-2008 rule. It also struck a power-sharing deal with Sarkisian when the latter took over as president in April 2008.
Dashnaktsutyun received two ministerial posts in the current Armenian government formed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in May following mass protests that forced Sarkisian into resignation. Its statement did not say whether the party could pull out of Pashinian’s de facto coalition government if law-enforcement authorities press ahead with Kocharian’s prosecution.