Former President Robert Kocharian was released from custody at the weekend after paying a record $4.1 million bail set by an Armenian court.
The bulk of the hefty sum was reportedly provided by four wealthy Russian businessmen. Three of them, notably billionaire Samvel Karapetian, are ethnic Armenians.
Vladimir Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder in AFK Sistema, a large Russian corporation, was said to be the fourth major contributor. Kocharian has been a member of Sistema’s board of directors since 2009.
Shortly after his release, Kocharian posted on Facebook a photograph of himself standing in the courtyard of his Yerevan house. “At home,” wrote the 65-year-old ex-president facing coup and corruption charges strongly denied by him.
Kocharian returned home from a Yerevan hospital where underwent surgery in late April. Last month another court allowed him to stay there until the end of the coronavirus pandemic. The director of the Izmirlian Medical Center, Armen Charchian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that doctors will continue to monitor his condition.
The Court of Appeals decided to grant Kocharian bail on Thursday when it partly overturned a lower court’s refusal to free him pending the outcome of his ongoing trial.
Prosecutors said they will appeal against the ruling. They insisted that the Kocharian could obstruct justice and pressure other suspects and witnesses in the case.
Kocharian’s family and lawyers complained, for their part, about the unprecedented bail amount. His younger son, Levon, said the family cannot afford to make the required payment on its own.
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.
Kocharian was released from jail for the third time since being first arrested in July 2018. His previous release was ordered in May 2019 by a district court judge who initially presided over the high-profile trial.
The judge’s decision 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 in protest.
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.
A close Pashinian associate, Alen Simonian, insisted on Saturday that the authorities are not concerned about Kocharian’s latest release. He said they only worry about “people’s anger” over the development.