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Kocharian’s Trial Resumes


Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian gestures during his trial in Yerevan, January 19, 2021.

The trial of former President Robert Kocharian and three other former senior Armenian officials facing coup charges resumed on Tuesday nearly four months after being effectively interrupted by the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

A court in Yerevan held the first hearing in the case since the outbreak of the war on September 27.

The hearing was originally scheduled for last month. But it did not take place because of the absence of lawyers representing Kocharian and other defendants.

The lawyers said that they joined a nationwide strike declared by Armenian opposition parties demanding that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian resign because of his handling of the war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.

In early December, Kocharian also blamed Pashinian for the Armenian side’s defeat in the war and urged his supporters to take part in anti-government demonstrations organized by the opposition.

Several dozen Kocharian supporters rallied outside the court building in Yerevan to show support for the Karabakh-born ex-president who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008. Kocharian talked to them and urged them to disperse, citing a cold weather. He refused to answer questions from journalists.

Kocharian, his former chief of staff Armen Gevorgian and two retired army generals stand accused of overthrowing the “constitutional order” in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in 2008. They all reject the accusations as politically motivated.

Speaking during Tuesday’s court hearing, Kocharian claimed that the high-profile criminal case “directly contributed” to the outcome of the recent war. He said Pashinian’s administration has done everything to discredit Armenia’s military and former leaders.

“There is a saying that when a nation does not honor its heroes it ends up having no heroes,” he said.

“I am prosecuted for declaring a state of emergency [in March 2008,]” Kocharian went on. “We have lived under a [coronavirus-related] state of emergency or martial law for almost a year. The war was stopped two and a half months ago but martial law remains in force.”

“Do the prosecutors do have anything to do with this?” he asked after accusing them of being complicit in the Armenian side’s defeat.

The accusation sparked an altercation between a trial prosecutor and Kocharian and defense lawyers.

Kocharian was first arrested and indicted in July 2018 two months after the “Velvet Revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. He was freed again in June this year after paying a record $4.1 million bail set by Armenia’s Court of Appeals.

The bulk of the hefty sum was reportedly provided by four wealthy Russian businessmen. They included Vladimir Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder in AFK Sistema, a large Russian corporation. Kocharian has been a member of Sistema’s board of directors since 2009.

The 66-year-old ex-president was allowed to visit Moscow and attend a board meeting last month during what his office described as a private trip.

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