Armenia’s imprisoned former President Robert Kocharian continued to deny on Tuesday corruption and coup charges brought against him as politically motivated on the second day of his trial.
Kocharian claimed that a criminal investigation into the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan has been “directed” by the current government.
“A deliberate, biased, premeditated investigation is conducted,” he told a district court in the Armenian capital. “Your honor, this is how the whole case has been handled. This is the essence of the case.”
Kocharian, 64, spoke as he and his lawyers made a fresh attempt to have him freed from custody pending the outcome of what promises to be a lengthy trial.
Prosecutors continued to oppose Kocharian’s release, however. One of them, Petros Petrosian, argued that he expressed a desire to leave the country after being set free in August.
Also asking the presiding judge, Davit Grigorian, to free Kocharian were Nagorno-Karabakh’s President Robert Kocharian and his predecessor Arkadi Ghukasian. According to the lawyers, they are ready to not only post bail but also guarantee in writing that the ex-president would not obstruct justice if set free.
Grigorian responded by saying that both Sahakian and Ghukasian must come to the court and personally offer such guarantees. He said that this is a legal requirement.
Sahakian and Ghukasian already urged Kocharian’s release in a letter to Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian sent last week. Davtian’s office said he is no longer in a position to grant such requests because the case has already been sent to the court.
The current and former Karabakh leaders cited Kocharian’s “huge contribution” to the Armenian victory in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. The latter ran Karabakh before becoming Armenia’s president in 1998.
Earlier in on Monday, Grigorian rejected the lawyers’ demand that another judge preside over the trial. They claimed that Grigorian is susceptible to pressure from the prosecution.
The judge’s decision on whether or not Kocharian should remain under arrest will be followed by the main hearings in the trial of the ex-president as well as his former chief of staff Armen Gevorgian and retired Generals Seyran Ohanian and Yuri Khachaturov.
They stand accused of overthrowing the constitutional order in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. All four defendants deny the charges.
Kocharian and Gevorgian have also been charged with bribery. They deny these accusations as well.
As the high-profile trial entered its second day dozens of supporters and detractors of Kocharian rallied outside the court building, shouting insults at each other. Riot police kept the rival groups apart.
The anti-Kocharian protesters included Vardges Gaspari, a prominent activist who was attacked inside the building on Monday after displaying a poster that branded the ex-president a “murderer.” One Kocharian supporter ripped up the poster while another hit Gaspari with a bottle.
Several Kocharian supporters were briefly detained and questioned afterwards. Among them was the official owner of a pro-Kocharian TV channel. It was not clear whether the police will move to prosecute any of them.
“I regret everything, I’m against violence, any violence,” Kocharian’s son Levon told RFE/RL’s Armenian service when asked to comment on the incident. He at the same time condemned Gaspari for trying to bring the “offensive” poster into the courtroom.