YEREVAN—Yerevan’s Court of First Instance on Friday ruled to arrest Armenia’s former president Robert Kocharian, who on Thursday was officially charged by Armenia’s Special Investigative Service for “breach of Constitutional order” over the events of March 1, 2008, when eight civilians and two police officers were killed during a post presidential-election opposition protest.
Kocharian’s attorney Aram Orbelyan told reporters that the former president has already been arrested and will serve the customary two-month pre-trial sentence. He added that more details would be made available during a press conference at noon on Saturday at Erebouni Plaza.
Kocharian’s other attorney, Ruben Sahakyan, told reporters that this ruling will be appealed.
Citing Article 300-1 of Armenia’s criminal code that alleges collusion with others to breach the Constitutional Order of the Republic of Armenia, the SIS charged Kocharian upon his arrival Thursday at SIS headquarters to be questioned as a witness.
Kocharian did not attend an arraignment hearing on Thursday. Friday’s arraignment hearing began at 11 a.m. local time with the ruling being announced some 12 hours later.
In an unprecedented interview with Yerkir Media on Thursday Kocharian vowed that he will fight the charges “to the end,” calling them a politically motivated “vendetta.”
“I will go. I will sit [in jail] but I will fight this until the end,” a visibly shaken Kocharian told Yerkir Media’s Gegham Manoukyan in an exclusive interview that aired on the channel Thursday evening.
During the more than 47-minute interview, during which he continuously repeated himself, Kocharian called the charges a “political vendetta” by the current regime, saying “they have already determined who the guilty parties are and are searching for ways to make the charges stick.”
“When I see that people are skilled at inventing such fabrications, I realize that for them nothing is sacred. They are capable of anything,” said Kocharian who called the entire episode “judicial surrealism” and warned that it will have a lasting impact on Armenia and its judiciary.
Also charged with “breach of Constitutional Order” was Yuri Khachaturov, who during the March 1 events was head of the internal security forces, and currently serves as the executive director of the Collective Security Treaty Organization—the post-Soviet regional security group, of which Armenia is a member.
The SIS is also seeking Khacharurov’s arrest. Khachaturov was interrogated on Thursday and charged with the same crime as Kocharian.
Earlier this month, the SIS charged Armenia’s Defense Minister at the time Mikael Harutiunyan with the same offense.
On July 3, SIS charged that on February 23, 2008, Harutiunyan secretly and illegally ordered the army to help enforce the official vote results. Military units began moving in to Yerevan in the following days and were actively engaged in the ensuing crackdown that resulted in the 10 deaths.
The SIS statement at the time said that the “de facto martial law” regime created by the deployment of the army violated constitutional provisions guaranteeing the military’s neutrality.
“A number of high-ranking officials of the acting authorities, including Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunyan, carried out actions aimed at violently breaching the constitutional order in the Republic of Armenia,” read the SIS statement based on which the charges were brought against the 72-year-old Harutiunyan, who served as the Armed Forces chief of staff from 1994 to 2007, before being named defense minister by Kocharian.