A court in Yerevan on Friday refused to grant bail to former Armenian President Robert Kocharian and allowed law-enforcement to hold him in pretrial detention for two more months.
Kocharian was again arrested on December 7 more than four months after being charged with overthrowing the constitutional order during the final weeks of his decade-long rule that ended in April 2008. He denies the accusations as politically motivated.
Earlier this month the Special Investigative Service (SIS) asked the court of first instance to extend Kocharian’s arrest. The court granted the request. It also rejected a petition to free Kocharian on bail which was submitted by his lawyers.
One of the lawyers, Aram Orbelian, told reporters that they will likely appeal against the ruling. He also did not rule out another appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Orbelian again accused the authorities of exerting pressure on this and other Armenian courts dealing with the high-profile case. He pointed to SIS chief Sasun Khachatrian’s and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s leaked phone conversations with the Artur Vanetsian, the director of the National Security Service (NSS), which were posted on the Internet last year.
Vanetsian can be heard saying in those audio clips that he told a judge to allow Kocharian’s first arrest in July. The NSS chief claims that the audio was doctored and that he never issued orders to the judge.
Kocharian is specifically 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 policemen were killed when security forces quelled the protests on March 1-2, 2008. Kocharian declared a three-week state of emergency on that night.
The 64-year-old ex-president says the accusations are part of Pashinian’s political “vendetta” waged against him.
Pashinian played a key role in the 2008 protests and spent nearly two years in prison because of that. He has strongly defended the criminal case against Kocharian and denied orchestrating it.