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Former Armenian President Granted Bail


Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian greets supporters during his trial, Yerevan, February 25, 2020.

Armenia’s Court of Appeals ordered on Thursday that Robert Kocharian be released from prison on bail pending the outcome of the ongoing trial of the former president facing coup and corruption charges denied by him.

Anna Danibekian, a district court judge presiding over the trial, again refused to grant Kocharian bail or free him on health grounds on May 13. His lawyers appealed against both decisions.

The Court of Appeals overturned one of those decisions over prosecutors’ objections. It set a 2 billion-dram ($4.2 million) bail for the release of the man who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008.

Kocharian personally assured the court on Wednesday that he will not go into hiding or obstruct justice if set free. “Had I been a fleeing person, I would not have had such a biography in the first place,” he said.

The prosecution insisted, however, that Kocharian could obstruct justice and should therefore remain under arrest. They said they will challenge in the Court of Appeals ruling in the higher Court of Cassation.

Kocharian’s lawyers welcomed the ruling. But one of them, Aram Vartevanian, questioned the “unprecedented” amount of the bail set by a Court of Appeals judge, Arsen Nikoghosian. Vartevanian would not say whether his client can pay the hefty sum.

Kocharian said in the courtroom on Wednesday that his assets remain frozen and that he can only use his children’s properties as bail collateral. His lawyers told the court afterwards that 700 million drams worth of such assets belonging to his younger son Levon and daughter Gayane could be used for this purpose.

The 65-year-old ex-president has been kept in a Yerevan hospital since undergoing another surgery there in late April. Last month another court allowed him to stay there until the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Armenia’s Penitentiary Service appealed against that decision.

Kocharian was held in Yerevan’s Kentron jail prior to his hospitalization. His lawyers have insisted in recent months that the COVID-19 pandemic is another reason why he should be freed. Law-enforcement authorities have dismissed those demands, saying that his chances of catching the disease at Kentron are minimal.

Kocharian, his former chief of staff and two retired army generals went on trial more than a year ago on charges mostly stemming from the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. The ex-president also stands accused of bribery. He rejects all accusations leveled against him as politically motivated.

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