The Court of Cassation, Armenia’s highest body of criminal justice, has rejected former President Robert Kocharian’s appeal against his renewed arrest allowed by a lower court in June.
A Yerevan court of first instance ordered Kocharian freed from prison on May 18 five days after starting his trial on coup and corruption charges strongly denied by him. Two days later, the presiding judge, Davit Grigorian, also questioned the legality of the charges and suspended the trial.
Acting on prosecutors’ appeal, the Court of Appeals overturned those decisions on June 25. Kocharian’s lawyers accused it of committing serious procedural violations and challenged its rulings in the higher Court of Cassation.
It emerged on Wednesday that the Court of Cassation rejected those claims and refused to even hold hearings and rule on the appeal. One of the defense lawyers, Hovannes Khudoyan, said the high court thus avoided having to substantiate Kocharian’s arrest.
“If you agree to hold hearings on a case you have to make a decision in favor or against [an appeal,]” Khudoyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “And that’s huge responsibility.”
He added that Kocharian’s legal team will now file a fresh appeal in the European Court of Human Rights.
The high-profile trial of Kocharian and three other former senior officials resumed two weeks ago. Another judge, Anna Danibekian, took over it from Grigorian because the latter was charged with forgery and suspended in July. Kocharian’s lawyers claim that the judge is prosecuted in retaliation against his decision to free the ex-president.
The lawyers petitioned Danibekian to release Kocharian after Armenia’s Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional earlier in September a legal provision used by investigators against their client. The judge ruled on September 17 that the Constitutional Court’s decision does not apply to the man who ruled Armenia rom 1998-2008. Three days later she also refused to grant Kocharian bail.