Two supporters of Robert Kocharian were arrested at the weekend on charges of harassing a judge presiding over the trial of Armenia’s jailed former president.
In an incident broadcast live on Facebook, the young men approached and pursued the judge, Anna Danibekian, as she walked towards a district court in Yerevan late on Friday. One of them, Narek Mutafian, persistently asked Danibekian whether she believes she is among those “whimpering” judges that were lambasted by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian recently.
Danibekian complained to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), a body overseeing Armenian courts, about the incident before Mutafian and the other man, Sargis Ohanjanian, were arrested by police. They both were charged with interfering in the work of a court for the purpose of “obstruction of justice.”
If convicted, they will face heavy fines and up to two years in prison. Mutafian reportedly testified that he did not mean to bully or pressure the judge.
In a statement, the SJC said the pro-Kocharian youths insulted Danibekian and tried to put “psychological pressure” on the 41-year-old judge through “inappropriate questioning.” Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, also condemned them.
One of Kocharian’s lawyers, Aram Vartevanian, added his voice to the condemnations while accusing the Armenian authorities of resorting to selective justice. Vartevanian claimed that the authorities turned a blind eye to a more serious harassment of two other judges who ordered Kocharian’s release from prison in August 2018 and May 2019.
One of those judges, Davit Grigorian, presided over Kocharian’s trial when it started in May. According to Vartevanian, Grigorian publicly received threats from Pashinian supporters after ordering the former president’s release.
The lawyer further argued that the authorities never prosecuted government loyalists who used force against another judge, Tigran Balayan, to stop him from entering a court building in Yerevan later in May. That incident occurred during a blockade of court buildings across Armenia initiated by Pashinian.
Danibekian took over Kocharian’s trial after Grigorian was controversially charged with forgery and suspended by the SJC in August.Kocharian’s lawyers and supporters denounced Grigorian’s prosecution as government retribution for the ex-president’s release. The SJC dismissed those claims.
Immediately after Kocharian’s trial resumed on September 12 the defense lawyers petitioned Danibekian to release their client, citing the Constitutional Court’s decision to declare unconstitutional a legal provision used by investigators against him. 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.
Kocharian is prosecuted on corruption and coup charges mostly stemming from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. He rejects the accusations as politically motivated.