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Kocharian Trial Judge Under Investigation


Armenia -- District court judge Davit Grigorian leaves the courtroom after ordering former President Robert Kocharian's release from prison, May 18, 2019.

Law-enforcement officers have raided and sealed the office of a district court judge in Yerevan who ordered former President Robert Kocharian’s release from prison two months ago, it emerged on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) said that Judge Davit Grigorian’s office was searched on Tuesday as part of a criminal investigation conducted by the law-enforcement agency. The official, Marina Ohanjanian, did not give any details of that probe or say whether the judge could be prosecuted.

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), a state body overseeing Armenia’s courts, said the SIS notified it about the search beforehand.

“We are monitoring the course of events,” Grigor Bekmezian, a member of the SJC, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We will immediately react if we see a problem [with the probe.] But we don’t see a problem as yet because we haven’t recorded any violation of the law.”

Bekmezian also declined to shed light on the investigation that led to the raid, saying that he is not allowed to divulge any details.

Some critics of the Armenian authorities were quick to accuse them of persecuting Grigorian over his handling of a high-profile criminal case against Kocharian.

Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian speaks during his trial in Yerevan, May 16, 2019.
Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian speaks during his trial in Yerevan, May 16, 2019.

Kocharian and three other former senior officials went on trial on May 13 on charges mostly stemming from a 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. They all deny the accusations that were brought against them following last year’s regime change in the country.

On May 18, Grigorian, who presides over the trial, ordered Kocharian released from prison pending a verdict in the case. The judge also decided to suspend the trial, questioning the legality of the coup charges and asked the Constitutional Court to pass judgment on them.

The decisions challenged by prosecutors angered political allies and supporters of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.Heeding Pashinian’s calls, hundreds of them blocked the entrances to court buildings across Armenia’s on May 20. Pashinian demanded a mandatory “vetting” of all Armenian judges, saying that many of them remain linked to the country’s “corrupt” former leadership.

Kocharian was arrested again on June 25 hours after Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned Grigorian’s decisions. His trial has still not resumed, however, because the Court of Appeals has yet to send materials of the case back to the lower court.

Kocharian’s lawyers accused the Court of Appeals of deliberately dragging out the judicial process to make sure Kocharian remains under arrest as long as possible. They said Grigorian might again free the ex-president accused of usurping power in the final weeks of his 1998-2008 rule.

The defense lawyers asked Grigorian to gran their client bail on July 8. According to the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, the judge went on a three-week vacation the following day.

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