Armenian prosecutors have decided to appeal against a judge’s controversial decision to suspend former President Robert Kocharian’s trial and request an important clarification from the Constitutional Court.
In his decision publicized on Tuesday, the district court judge presiding over the trial, Davit Grigorian, cited a “suspicion of discrepancy” between the Armenian constitution and coup charges brought against Kocharian. He also suggested that the constitution gives the ex-president immunity from prosecution in connection with the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.
The decision was condemned by lawyers representing relatives of protesters killed in the March 2008 clashes with security forces. One of them said the Constitutional Court must not take up the case because he is legally unable to appeal against the judge’s decision.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General clarified later on Tuesday, however, that Armenia’s Code of Procedural Justice allows it to file such an appeal. A spokesman for the office said it will therefore ask the Court of Appeals to annul the trial’s suspension.
One of Kocharian’s lawyers, Aram Orbelian, insisted on Wednesday that while the prosecutors can challenge the judge’s decision, the Court of Appeals is not in a position to overturn it.
“Under the existing legislation, the Court of Appeals has no right to look into the justifications for the [judge’s] appeal to the Constitutional Court,” Orbelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
He predicted that the Court of Appeals will therefore rebuff the prosecutors. “It cannot say in place of the Constitutional Court whether a particular law conforms to the constitution,” he said.
Armenian law gives the Constitutional has one month to decide whether to hold hearings and rule on the appeal.
Orbelian confirmed reports that the court chairman, Hrayr Tovmasian, is his godfather. He said this fact does not represent a conflict of interest.
“I am simply one of the lawyers in this case,” added Orbelian. “I am not the defendant or prosecutor. The case does not apply to me.”
The prosecutors are also planning to appeal against Judge Grigorian’s separate decision on Saturday to release Kocharian from custody pending the outcome of the trial.
The decision angered many political allies and supporters of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who hold Kocharian responsible for the 2008 bloodshed. At Pashinian’s urging, they blocked the entrances to court buildings across the country on Monday.The premier also called for a mandatory “vetting” of all judges and said many of them should quit even before the start of such a process.