A district court judge in Yerevan on Thursday accepted prosecutors’ demand to stop considering granting bail to Robert Kocharian, a former Armenian president prosecuted on coup charges.
Nelly Baghdasarian’s decision means that another judge will decide whether Kocharian should be freed pending investigation into his role in the deadly breakup of 2008 opposition protests.
Kocharian was arrested for a second time on December 7. His lawyers asked the court to release him on bail, arguing, among other things, that he did not attempt to obstruct justice after being set free in August.
Baghdasarian opened hearings on the appeal on December 28. The prosecutors demanded that another judge take over the case when the hearings resumed on Wednesday.
According to one of Kocharian’s lawyers, Hayk Alumian, they argued that Baghdasarian had recused herself from dealing with another suspect in the 2008 unrest case because of a possible conflict of interest.
Another defense lawyer, Aram Orbelian, criticized Baghdasarian’s decision, saying that the judge “avoided administering justice.” Orbelian said the judge should not have taken up the case in the first place if she had really felt that she cannot be impartial.
It was not immediately clear when the court will assign another judge to rule on Kocharian’s bail request.
Kocharian stands accused of illegally using Armenian army units against opposition supporters who protested against alleged fraud in a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. Law-enforcement authorities say that amounted to an overthrow of the constitutional order.
Eight protesters and two police personnel were killed when security forces quelled the protests on March 1-2, 2008.
The 64-year-old ex-president, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, denies the charges, saying that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is waging a political “vendetta” against him. Investigators deny any political motives behind his arrest.