Robert Kocharian, Armenia’s former president standing trial on coup charges, was taken back to prison on Friday after spending more than three weeks in hospital.
Kocharian was taken to the Erebuni Medical Center in Yerevan on March 9. His spokesman said at the time that he is suffering from blood pressure fluctuations and needs a thorough medical examination.
According to one of Kocharian’s lawyers, Hovannes Khudoyan, Erebuni’s doctors have improved the ex-president’s condition but believe that he needs to undergo further treatment and remain under medical surveillance.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Khudoyan claimed that his client will risk being infected with coronavirus at Yerevan’s Kentron prison where he has been kept, on and off, since July 2018. This is another reason why Kocharian, who already underwent surgery in another hospital last year, should be released from custody, said the lawyer.
Khudoyan noted in that regard five members of the administration of another Yerevan prison, Vartashen, tested positive for coronavirus this week.
The Armenian Justice Ministry reported on Thursday that 28 other prison guards at Vartashen were placed under quarantine because of that. A ministry spokeswoman, Lusine Martirosian, said on Friday that none of them has tested positive for the virus.
The ministry, which runs Armenia’s penitentiary system, maintains that none of the infected guards had come into contact with prison inmates.
Martirosian stood by its earlier assurances that authorities are doing their best to prevent coronavirus cases among prisoners. She said the precautionary measures include regular monitoring of their health condition and a ban on visits from their relatives and friends imposed on March 13.
Kocharian, 65, as well as his former chief of staff and two retired army generals went on trial last year on coup charges mostly stemming from the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. The ex-president, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, was also charged with bribe-taking a year ago. He rejects all accusations as politically motivated.
The judge presiding over the high-profile trial, Anna Danibekian, has repeatedly refused to free Kocharian pending a verdict in the case.
Danibekian was due to consider a written appeal for his release, signed by three former Armenian prime ministers, during a court hearing scheduled for March 17. The hearing was postponed because of her illness. It is still not clear when the trial will resume.