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Prosecutors Appeal Against Kocharian’s Release


Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian (L) and his lawyer Hayk Alumian arrive for the latest session of his trial, Yerevan, June 23, 2020.

Prosecutors have formally asked the Court of Cassation to overturn a lower court’s June 18 decision to release Armenia’s indicted former President Robert Kocharian from prison on bail.

The Court of Appeals set a record-high bail amount, 2 billion drams ($4.1 million), when it agreed to free him over the prosecutors’ objections.

Kocharian’s lawyers complained about the hefty sum, saying that his family cannot afford it. Nevertheless, the ex-president walked free on June 21 after being bailed out by four wealthy Russian businessmen. Three of them, notably billionaire Samvel Karapetian, are ethnic Armenians.

The prosecutors denounced the ruling, insisting that Kocharian could obstruct justice and pressure other suspects and witnesses in the case. Arsen Nikoghosian, the Court of Appeals judge who handed down the ruling, said that the massive bail will minimize the risk of such obstruction.

The prosecutors dismissed Nikoghosian’s conclusion in their appeal to the Court of Cassation, Armenia’s highest body of criminal and administrative justice.

Incidentally, Kocharian’s lawyers have also appealed to the court. One of them, Hayk Alumian, said on Friday that they object to the bail amount and the fact that Nikoghosian did not rule out the possibility of Kocharian exerting “unlawful influence” other participants of his ongoing trial.

“We believe that there is no likelihood of obstruction,” Alumian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

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 in the wake of Armenia’s disputed 2008 presidential election which sparked deadly street clashes in Yerevan.

The ex-president, who ruled the country from 1998-2008, 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. Kocharian was arrested again in June 2019.

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