The chairman and two other members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court met with Nagorno-Karabakh’s president, Bako Sahakian, during a visit to Stepanakert on Friday.
A spokesman for Sahakian insisted that the visit had been planned beforehand and is not related to the dramatic developments in Yerevan triggered by a court’s May 18 decision to free Robert Kocharian, Armenia’s Karabakh-born former president prosecuted on coup charges.
The judge presiding over Kocharian’s trial cited written guarantees of the defendant’s “adequate behavior” which were signed by Sahakian and his predecessor Arkadi Ghukasian. The judge went on to suspend the high-profile trial, saying that the charges may contradict the Armenian constitution. He therefore asked the Constitutional Court to pass judgment on that.
The court said earlier this week that it has already started a “preliminary” examination of the appeal. The court has one month to decide whether or not to open hearings on it.
A statement by Sahakian’s office said the Karabakh leader discussed with the visiting delegation headed by Hrayr Tovmasian, the Constitutional Court chairman, “issues related to cooperation of the two Armenian states in the judicial sphere.”
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Davit Babayan, insisted that they did not discuss the criminal proceedings against Kocharian. Accordingly, Babayan denied any connection between Tovmasian’s visit and the Kocharian-related developments.
Karabakh’s leaders and parliamentary parties had repeatedly called for Kocharian’s release. Visiting Yerevan on May 15, the Karabakh parliament speaker said such statements reflect public opinion in Karabakh.
Born and raised in Karabakh, Kocharian governed the Armenian-populated territory from 1992-1997. He rejects the charges as politically motivated. Armenia’s current government and law-enforcement bodies deny political motives behind his prosecution.
While in Stepanakert, Tovmasian and the two other judges accompanying him also met with local university students.
According to a Karabakh opposition parliamentarian, Hayk Khanumian, Tovmasian had developed close ties with Sahakian in his previous capacity as member of Armenia’s parliament representing the former ruling Republican Party (HHK).