Armenia’s Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a lower court’s recent conclusion that investigators violated the arrested former President Robert Kocharian’s legal rights when they froze his assets last year.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) froze Kocharian’s bank accounts in July 2018 just days after he was first arrested on coup charges stemming from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. They also subsequently searched his mansion, confiscating documents, legally owned firearms as well as $27,000 in cash.
Acting on a lawsuit filed by Kocharian, a district court in Yerevan ruled last month that the asset seizure constituted a violation of his rights. But it stopped short of ordering the SIS to unfreeze his bank accounts and other assets.
Prosecutors appealed against that ruling. One of them, Petros Petrosian, insisted during a Court of Appeals hearing that the measure is needed to ensure the enforcement of a possible guilty ruling in Kocharian’s ongoing separate trial.
Kocharian, who also attended the hearing, complained, however, that he has been unable to pay his legal costs. “Why are you forcing me, who can afford that, to rely on the [financial] support of my relatives and friends?” he said. “For me, it’s not an honorable thing, so to speak.”
Kocharian also mocked investigators for confiscating the money found in his safe. “You wondered why they took the $27,000,” he told the presiding judge. “I think because they were shocked. When the investigator opened the safe he saw not $4 billion but only $27,000 and he took it because of the shock.”
The judge, Arsen Nikoghosian, reprimanded Kocharian, saying that his comments are disrespectful towards the prosecution. The ex-president, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, countered that he is simply exercising “freedom of expression.”
Nikoghosian’s ensuing ruling means that Kocharian’s assets will still remain frozen. It was not immediately clear whether the prosecutors will challenge the ruling in the higher Court of Cassation.
Kocharian, who also stands accused of bribery, went on trial on May 13, again rejecting all charges brought against him as politically motivated. A district court judge presiding over the trial freed him from custody a few days later. The judge also suspended the trial, questioning the legality of the coup charge.
The Court of Appeals overturned both decisions before Kocharian was arrested again on June 25. The high-profile trial has still not resumed.