Armenia’s former president Robert Kocharian, who is on trial on charges of breaching the country’s constitutional order, accused the prosecution on Thursday of withholding key evidence that could clear his name on the fourth day of trial, which also included testimony by the current and former presidents of Artsakh in support of Kocharian’s release and the judge’s ruling to continue the day’s hearing behind closed doors.
Kocharian, who is accused of ordering security forces to fire on post-election opposition protesters in March, 2008, told the court that video showing protesters firing guns and throwing grenades at police officers is being withheld by the prosecution. He elaborated that the National Security Service-shot video depicts a protester firing a gun during the March 1, 2008 standoff between security forces and the protesters, which resulted in the death of eight civilians and two police officers. His defense attorney submitted a copy of the video to the presiding judge David Grigoyan.
Kocharian also added that the said video was part of a trove of other videos shown to him by then NSS director Gorik Hakobyan a few days following the March 1, 2008 incidents that, he claimed, contained graphic evidence of protesters firing weapons and grenades. The former president claimed that one of the videos showed how a police captain—the first police officer to be killed on March 1, was killed from a grenade allegedly thrown by a protester. He also added that all videos were included in the original March 1, 2008 case file. He said now those pieces of evidence were missing from the prosecution’s file.
The prosecution and the National Security Service, which conducted the Kocharian investigation, did not immediately respond to Kocharian’s allegation about withholding evidence.
Kocharian’s testimony was followed by the arrival of the current and former Artsakh presidents, Bako Sahakian and Arakdy Ghukassian, who last week had submitted a letter urging the release of Kocharian, who has been in custody awaiting a trial. During Wednesday’s session, Grigoryan, the judge, had summoned the two Artsakh leaders to make their case for Kocharian’s release in person.
Sahakian and Ghukassian reiterated their request to the court to free Kocharian saying that they personally would guarantee his bail and ensure that he does not hinder the criminal investigation and appears in court as the trial continues.
“We guarantee his appearance in court during the entire trial and implementation of judicial duties. Therefore we ask to replace the current detention order with a precautionary measure not linked with detention,” the two Artsakh presidents told the court. Kocharian was also president of Artsakh from 1994 to 1997.
Following this testimony, Kocharian’s defense team asked the judge to continue the remainder of Thursday’s session behind closed doors, and requested that Sahakian and Ghukassian remain in the courtroom.
Judge Grigoyan ruled in favor of the defense’s motion, but asked Sahakian and Ghukassian to leave the courtroom and continued the trial behind closed doors, where reportedly confidential information would be presented to the court.
It was announced later Thursday that the judge will announce his ruling on Kocharian’s remand on May 18.