A senior pro-government parliamentarian on Monday accused lawyers for Robert Kocharian of dragging out the high-profile trial of Armenia’s jailed former president facing coup and corruption charges denied by him.
The trial began in May and has so far been dominated by legal wrangles over Kocharian’s pre-trial arrest and the legality of the charges brought against him as well as four other former senior officials.
A district court judge who initially presided over the trial was controversially suspended and replaced in July after ordering Kocharian freed from custody. Another judge, Anna Danibekian, resumed court hearings in the case in September. She has since twice rejected defense lawyers’ demands for the release of the ex-president.
Danibekian has also dismissed two petitions demanding that another judge take over the trial. The lawyers went on to demand on November 12 the replacement one of the trial prosecutors. The court will continue to consider the demand at its next hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Andranik Kocharian (no relation to Robert Kocharian), the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on defense and security, claimed that the ex-president and his legal team are deliberately delaying the examination of witnesses and evidence.
“Websites and TV stations controlled by them keep saying why the [substantive part of the] trial is not starting,” he told reporters. “Ask the lawyers why they won’t let the trial start.”
“Everything is being done to drag out the trial … What are they waiting for? One can only guess,” said lawmaker extremely critical of Robert Kocharian.
One of the lawyers, Hovannes Khudoyan, dismissed the claims, saying that he and his colleagues are simply using all legal options of defending their client. “The sole legal objective which we are trying to achieve at this stage is to end the illegal arrest of our client,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Kocharian and the three other defendants specifically stand accused of using the Armenian military against opposition protesters who demanded the rerun of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008, two months before he served out his final presidential term. Official election results, rejected as fraudulent by the main opposition candidate, Levon Ter-Petrosian, gave victory to Kocharian’s preferred successor, Serzh Sarkisian.
Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered army units into central Yerevan late on March 1, 2008 amid violent street clashes which left eight opposition protesters and two police servicemen dead. The prosecution says that this and other orders issued by him to the military were illegal, a claim denied by Kocharian as politically motivated.