Armenia’s Constitutional Court has agreed to rule on the legality of the most serious of accusations brought against former President Robert Kocharian.
The accusation stems from the March 2008 deadly post-election violence in Yerevan. Law-enforcement authorities say Kocharian as well as two retired army generals illegally used Armenian army units against opposition protesters in the wake of a disputed presidential election. They say that amounted to a violent seizure of power.
Article 300.1of the Armenian Criminal Code calls for between 10 and 15 years’ imprisonment for such crimes.
Davit Grigorian, a Yerevan district court judge, cited a possible discrepancy between that article and Armenia’s constitution one week after starting Kocharian’s trial on May 13. He asked the Constitutional Court to pass judgment on the matter, suspending the trial because of that.
Grigorian also controversially decided to release Kocharian from custody on May 18 pending a verdict in the case. Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned that decision on June 25. The ex-president, who strongly denies this and other accusations leveled against him, was again arrested a few hours later.
In a decision publicized on Wednesday, the Constitutional Court said it will determine whether or not the coup charge is unconstitutional. It said it will start formally considering the judge’s appeal on August 20 through a “written procedure.”
In a separate move, the Constitutional Court chairman, Hrayr Tovmasian, decided to exclude Vahe Grigorian, the court’s newest judge appointed by the parliament last month, from the case. He argued that Grigorian has represented relatives of protesters killed in March 2008 in other courts.
The National Assembly approved Vahe Grigorian’s appointment to a vacant seat in the country’s highest court on June 24. Two days later Grigorian effectively declared Tovmasian and six other members of the court illegitimate.
Grigorian said that under constitutional amendments which took effect last year the Constitutional Court now consists of “judges,” rather than “members,” as was the case until April 2018. He said that only he and Arman Dilanian, who was elected by the parliament last year, can be considered judges and make decisions.
The eight other members of the Constitutional Courts, including Dilanian, dismissed those claims in a joint statement released last week.