A court in Yerevan on Wednesday rejected fresh demands for former President Robert Kocharian’s release from prison which were backed by three former Armenian prime ministers.
Former Prime Ministers Vazgen Manukian, Khosrov Harutiunian and Karen Karapetian appeared before the court last Friday to guarantee in writing that Kocharian will demonstrate “proper behavior” and not go into hiding or obstruct justice if set free. A former Karabakh premier, Anushavan Danielian, also signed such a statement and handed it to the presiding judge, Ann Danibekian.
In addition, Kocharian’s lawyers submitted two petitions demanding his release on health grounds or on bail. They insisted that he risks being infected with coronavirus in a Yerevan prison.
Danibekian rejected all of those petitions, effectively siding with prosecutors strongly opposed to the release of the 65-year-old ex-president prosecuted on coup and corruption charges.
One of Kocharian’s lawyers, Aram Orbelian, condemned the judge’s decision, saying that it “has nothing to do with justice” and represents further proof of his client’s “political persecution” ordered by the Armenian government. He said he and the other defense lawyers will likely appeal against the decision.
Danibekian had repeatedly refused to free Kocharian pending the outcome of his ongoing trial since taking over the high-profile case from another judge, Davit Grigorian, last August.
Grigorian was controversially charged with forgery and suspended in July 2018 two months after ordering Kocharian’s release. The ex-president was arrested again in June.
Kocharian, who governed Armenia from 1998-2008, was hospitalized on April 28. He underwent surgery at Yerevan’s Izmirlian Medical Center on Tuesday for the second time in seven months.
The hospital’s director, Armen Charchian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that is was connected with what he described as a more difficult operation which Kocharian had in October. He did not go into details.
Kocharian’s son Levon said after the October surgery that the ex-president had a benign tumor.
Kocharian and three other former senior officials stand trial on charges mostly stemming from the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. He rejects all charges leveled against him as politically motivated.