Prosecutors and lawyers for Robert Kocharian have offered differing interpretations of the Constitutional Court’s decision to partly accept an appeal filed by Armenia’s jailed former president.
Kocharian’s lawyers had challenged the legality of two articles of the Armenian Code of Procedural Justice invoked by investigators accusing him of taking bribes and overthrowing the constitutional order shortly before the end of his decade-long rule in 2008.
The Constitutional Court ruled that one of those articles is unconstitutional because it does not take account of current and former senior Armenian officials’ immunity from prosecution guaranteed by the country’s constitution. But it upheld the other clause that spells out legal grounds for arresting criminal suspects.
The defense lawyers portrayed the ruling as a confirmation of their claims that Kocharian’s arrest and prosecution is illegal. They petitioned a district court in Yerevan on Saturday to free their client and clear him of the charges.
The court has not yet reacted to the petition yet. It is scheduled to resume on Thursday Kocharian’s high-profile trial interrupted nearly four months ago.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General insisted on Monday that the Constitutional Court did not declare the criminal case against Kocharian null and void. According to its interpretation of the ruling, it is up to investigators and the judge presiding over the trial to determine whether the ex-president’s legal immunity extends to the accusations leveled against him.
Article 140 of the Armenian constitution says: “During the term of his or her powers and thereafter, the President of the Republic may not be prosecuted and subjected to liability for actions deriving from his or her status.”
In a statement, the prosecutors stood by their position that this constitutional provision does not apply to Kocharian’s decision to use army units against opposition protesters in Yerevan in the wake of a disputed 2008 presidential election.
The statement also accused the ex-president’s lawyers of distorting the essence of the Constitutional Court’s decision.
One of the lawyers, Hovannes Khudoyan, countered that the prosecutors themselves are misinterpreting the ruling. “I would advise the Office of the Prosecutor-General to again familiarize itself with that judicial act in order to finally understand what it is all about,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.