Robert Kocharian’s office said on Friday that wealthy supporters of Armenia’s jailed former president are ready to help him post a $4.2 million bail needed for his release.
The Court of Appeals set the unprecedented bail amount on Thursday when it partly overturned a lower court’s refusal to free Kocharian pending the outcome of his ongoing trial. He has to pay the hefty sum by Saturday or remain under arrest.
The head of Kocharian’s office, Victor Soghomonian, hailed the ruling as a “first step towards restoring justice” while criticizing the highest ever bail set in the country’s history.
In a statement, Soghomonian said “hundreds of individuals” have expressed readiness to bail Kocharian out. They include “several wealthy entrepreneurs and philanthropists,” he said, adding that he will reveal their names soon.
Kocharian’s younger son Levon said, meanwhile, that the ex-president’s family cannot afford to make the required payment on its own.
Kocharian’s assets were frozen by law-enforcement authorities after he was first arrested in July 2018 on charges stemming from the 2008 post-election crackdown on opposition protesters in Yerevan. The ex-president noted this fact during a Court of Appeals hearing on Wednesday. He said he can only use Levon’s and his daughter Gayane’s properties worth 700 million drams ($1.5 million) as bail collateral.
One of Kocharian’s lawyers, Hayk Alumian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday that he is still not sure his client can pay up. Alumian said the defense lawyers may therefore challenge the bail amount in the higher Court of Cassation.
Prosecutors have already decided to appeal against bail granted to the man who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008.
Also planning to appeal to the Court of Cassation are relatives of nine people killed in the March 2008 unrest in Yerevan. One of their lawyers, Tigran Yegorian, added his voice to prosecutors’ claims that Kocharian could obstruct justice and exert “substantial influence” on witnesses if set free.
Kocharian, his former chief of staff and two retired army generals went on trial more than a year ago, accused of overthrowing the constitutional order. The ex-president also stands accused of bribery. He rejects all accusations leveled against him as politically motivated.