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Relatives Of 2008 Unrest Victims Boycott Kocharian Trial


Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian and three other former officials stand trial in Yerevan, September 17, 2019.

Relatives of nine people killed in the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan have decided to boycott the ongoing trial of former President Robert Kocharian and three other former officials prosecuted on coup charges.

A lawyer representing them, Tigran Yegorian, claimed on Monday that the trial, which began in May 2019, has become a “farce” because of what he called delay tactics adopted by Kocharian and the other defendants. He complained that a Yerevan district court is still not examining substantive issues because of numerous petitions mostly relating to procedural issues submitted by the defendants’ lawyers.

Yegorian also said that he and his clients do not trust the Armenian judiciary because they believe the country’s current government has not done enough to reform it since taking office after the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.” The boycott is therefore also a “message” addressed to the government, he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Justice Minister Rustam Badasian dismissed the criticism on Tuesday. Badasian said that while he shares the relatives’ concerns about the course of the trial he believes that the government must not interfere in court hearings on the case. Such intervention would run counter to judicial independence guaranteed by the Armenian constitution, he told reporters.

Badasian also defended “quite intensive” judicial reforms launched by Armenia’s current political leadership. “I think it’s wrong to link the overall course of the reforms to a particular court case,” he said.

Sargis Kloyan, whose son Gor was among eight protesters killed in March 2008 street clashes with security forces, said the boycott will continue until the authorities initiate major changes in the judiciary. He was particularly upset with Kocharian’s release from prison ordered by Armenia’s Court of Appeals in May this year.

Kocharian, who was first arrested in July 2018, his former chief of staff and two retired army generals stand accused of illegally using Armenian army units against opposition protesters in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. They reject the accusations as politically motivated.

Kocharian, who handed over power to Serzh Sarkisian in April 2008, has consistently defended the use of force against supporters of Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition candidate in the presidential ballot. He maintains that security forces thwarted a violent seizure of power by the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition.

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