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Investigators To Question Sarkisian Over 2008 Unrest


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (L) and his predecessor Robert Kocharian visit Gyumri, 7 December 2008.

Former President Serzh Sarkisian will also be questioned in connection with the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan, the head of Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) said on Thursday.

“I have repeatedly said that everyone who had to do with this case will be interrogated without any exceptions,” Sasun Khachatrian told reporters. “Serzh Sarkisian will also be interrogated.”

Khachatrian did not say when the former president, who governed Armenia from 2008-2018, will be summoned for questioning.

Sarkisian was the official winner of the February 2008 presidential election which sparked non-stop protests in Yerevan led by Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition candidate. Security broke up those protests on March 1-2, 2008. Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed as a result.

The crackdown was ordered by then outgoing President Robert Kocharian. The latter handed over power to Sarkisian, his longtime political ally, in April 2008.

Last month the SIS charged Kocharian, former Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian and former Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Khachaturov with “overthrowing the constitutional order” in the wake of the disputed ballot. The law-enforcement agency says that they illegally used the armed forces against protesters.

Kocharian denied the charges as politically motivated before being arrested on July 27. Armenia’s Court of Appeals released him from custody on Monday, saying that that the constitution gives him immunity from prosecution.

Khachaturian again condemned the ruling as “illegal” and expressed hope that state prosecutors will ask the higher Court of Cassation to overturn it. He accused Aleksandr Azarian, a Court of Appeals judge who ordered Kocharian’s release, of bias. Khachatrian argued, in particular, that Azarian had convicted nine members and supporters of the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition of participating in “mass disorders.”

“Ten years ago Mr. Azarian handed down about a dozen guilty verdicts in which he described peaceful demonstrators as participants of mass disturbances who burned down and smashed things,” said the SIS chief.

Those verdicts were based on criminal cases opened by Armenian law-enforcement authorities. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who played a key role in the 2008 protests, spent nearly two years in prison on similar charges. Pashinian appointed Khachatrian as head of the SIS and ordered a fresh probe of the unrest shortly after coming to power in May in a wave of mass protests that brought down Sarkisian’s government.

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