A court in Yerevan has formally replaced the judge presiding over the stalled trial of former President Robert Kocharian.
The trial began on May 13, with Kocharian facing accusations of bribery and a violent overthrow of the constitutional order strongly denied by him. A few days later, the judge in the high-profile case, Davit Grigorian, ordered the ex-president freed from custody and suspended the trial, questioning the legality of the charges.
Prosecutors appealed against both decisions strongly condemned by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s political allies. Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned them on June 25, leading Kocharian’s lawyers to appeal to the higher Court of Cassation. Meanwhile, Grigorian was charged with forgery and suspended.
The case has now been assigned to another district court judge, Anna Danibekian, meaning that the trial should resume within two weeks.
One of the defense lawyers, Hovannes Khudoyan, said on Tuesday Danibekian will have to first and foremost decide whether Kocharian must remain in custody. Khudoyan again claimed that his client’s detention is illegal because the trial should have resumed immediately after the Court of Appeals ruling.
Khudoyan and other defense lawyers have repeatedly accused the authorities of deliberately dragging out the trial to keep the ex-president in jail as long as possible. The head of Armenia’s Judicial Department, Karen Poladian, dismissed those claims last week. Poladian argued that Kocharian’s legal team itself sent the case to the Court of Cassation.
The coup charges, which have also been leveled against two retired army generals, stem from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan which left eight anti-government protesters and two police servicemen dead. Prosecutors claim that Kocharian illegally ordered Armenian army units to break up street protests against alleged fraud in a presidential election.
Kocharian, who ruled the country from 1998-2008, rejects the accusations as politically motivated. The indicted generals also deny them.