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Court Upholds Acquittal Of Former Judge In Kocharian Case


Armenia -- District court judge Davit Grigorian leaves the courtroom after ordering former President Robert Kocharian's release from prison, May 18, 2019.

Armenia’s Court of Appeals rejected on Friday prosecutors’ appeal against a lower court’s decision to throw out controversial criminal charges brought against a judge who had released former President Robert Kocharian from prison.

The judge, Davit Grigorian, presided over the ongoing trial of Kocharian and three other former officials when it got underway in May 2019. A few days later, Grigorian not only freed the ex-president but also suspended the trial, questioning the legality of coup charges brought against him.

The decisions 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. 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 after the Court of Appeals overturned Grigorian’s decisions. Three weeks later, law-enforcement officers searched and sealed the judge’s offices. A state body overseeing the Armenian judiciary then suspended Grigorian and allowed the Special Investigative Service (SIS) to prosecute him.

Grigorian denied the ensuing accusations of document forgery brought against him and his secretary. He described them as government retribution for Kocharian’s release.

Investigators denied any connection between the Kocharian case and Grigorian’s prosecution.

In June 2020, a Yerevan court of first instance threw out the case against Grigorian for lack of evidence even before starting the suspended judge’s trial.

The Court of Appeals upheld that decision, ruling on an appeal filed by Armenia’s prosecutor-general. One of Grigorian’s lawyers, Georgi Melikian, thanked it for the “principled judicial act.”

The judge who took over Kocharian’s trial later in 2019, Anna Danibekian, repeatedly refused to release the ex-president from custody pending a verdict in the case. In June 2020, the Court of Appeals overturned Danibekian’s decision to deny Kocharian bail and ordered him freed.

Kocharian, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, rejects the coup and corruption charges leveled against him as politically motivated.

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