Kocharian Released from Custody

Armenia's former president in court on May 16.
Armenia's former president in court on May 16.

Armenia’s former president in court on May 16.

Armenia’s former president Robert Kocharian was released from pre-trial custody when the presiding judge of his trial on charges of breaching the constitution approved the personal guarantees of the current and former presidents of Artsakh who vouched that he would not obstruct justice.

Kocharian and three former government officials are facing charges related to the March 1, 2008 post-election standoff between protesters and security officials that resulted in the deaths of eight civilians and two police officers.

At around 4:05 local time, judge David Grigoryan announced his ruling citing the testimony of the current and former presidents of Artsakh, Bako Sahakian and Arkady Ghoukassian who personally showed up in court on Thursday to guarantee that Kocharian would abide by the law, not leave the country and appear in scheduled court sessions for his trial.

When Kocharian was charged last July, he was immediately remanded to custody. That decision was overturned by a higher court two weeks later. However, in December, an appellate court overruled the previous decision and remanded Kocharian, who has been in jail since then.

During Thursday’s hearing, Kocharian claimed that the prosecution withheld key evidence that would exonerate him, citing video taped recordings that showed protesters firing at police and throwing grenades, which he claimed killed one of two police officers who died during the March 1, 2008 protests.

Kocharian’s defense team on Friday showed reporters the video tapes on Friday as they offered a briefing of the Thursday’s trial, which in the end was held behind closed doors.

The prosecution said it will appeal the decision, with Armenia’s Attorney General, Arthur Davtyan, who attended the hearing on Thursday, vocally opposing Kocharian’s release.

There was heavy police presence outside the courthouse in the Nor Work district of Yerevan as rival factions demonstrated outside, with hundreds of Kocharian’s opponents gathered to protest the court’s ruling, who were recorded harassing and pushing passers by, among them former Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau chairman Hrant Markarian who was at Opera Square with his grandchildren.

The ARF Supreme Council of Armenia issued an announcement on Saturday condemning such behavior and warning of the dangers of creating divisions among the two Armenian states.

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