A court in Yerevan has thrown out controversial criminal charges brought against a judge who ordered former President Robert Kocharian’s release from prison a year ago.
The judge, Davit Grigorian, presided over the ongoing trial of Kocharian and three other former officials when it got underway in May 2019. A few days later, he not only agreed to free the ex-president but also suspended the trial, questioning the legality of coup charges brought against him.
The decisions angered political allies and supporters of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Heeding Pashinian’s calls, hundreds of them blocked the entrances to court buildings across Armenia. Pashinian demanded a mandatory “vetting” of all Armenian judges, saying that many of them remain linked to the country’s “corrupt” former leadership.
Kocharian was arrested again in June 2019 after Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned Grigorian’s decisions. Three weeks later, law-enforcement officers searched and sealed the judge’s offices. Later in July, a state body overseeing the Armenian judiciary suspended Grigorian and allowed the Special Investigative Service (SIS) to prosecute him.
Grigorian denied the ensuing accusations of document forgery brought against him and his secretary. He considers them government retribution for Kocharian release.
Investigators have denied any connection between the Kocharian case and Grigorian’s prosecution. Prosecutors endorsed the accusations and sent the case to a Yerevan district court last month, paving the way for the suspended judge’s trial.
It emerged on Monday that the court decided to throw out the case due to lack of evidence even before the start of the trial.
Grigorian’s lawyer, Yervand Varosian, hailed the decision made by a district court judge, Davit Balayan.
“Justice in Armenia will not be killed,” Varosian wrote on Facebook. “On the contrary, it will recuperate and consist of competent, courageous and independent judges.”
“Today Judge Davit Balayan took a very important step in that direction,” said the lawyer critical of the Armenian government.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General and the SIS did not immediately react to the development.
Kocharian’s high-profile trial has been presided over by another judge, Anna Danibekian, since August. Danibekian has repeatedly refused to release him pending the outcome of the trial.
The ex-president rejects the coup and corruption charges leveled against him as politically motivated.