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Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian (file photo)

YEREVAN -- Armenian prosecutors have lodged appeals against court decisions to suspend the trial of former President Robert Kocharian and release him from pretrial detention.

The Prosecutor-General's Office told RFE/RL on May 23 that it had appealed "two rulings by a first-instance court, one on terminating the proceedings in the criminal case in relation to Kocharian and other high-ranking officials, and the other on freeing Kocharian from arrest."

Kocharian went on trial earlier this month on charges of overthrowing the constitutional order during the final weeks of his decade-long rule that ended in April 2008.

On May 18, a Yerevan court said the 64-year-old, who had been in pretrial detention since his arrest in December, could be released after leaders from Nagorno-Karabakh said they would vouch for him and guaranteed that he would appear in court when the trial resumes.

Two days later, the court suspended the criminal proceedings, saying it was sending the case to the Constitutional Court over Kocharian’s status as either a private person or a president.

The rulings pushed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to call for a radical reform of the country's judiciary -- contending that many courts have lost their legitimacy and too many judges are beholden to the country's former authorities.

Kocharian is accused of illegally ordering army soldiers to use force against opposition supporters who were protesting against alleged fraud in the February 2008 presidential election.

He has dismissed the charges against him as politically motivated.

During the protests that erupted on March 1, 2008, eight protesters and two police officers were killed when security forces cracked down. The order came after Kocharian declared a three-week state of emergency.

Before serving as Armenia's president from 1998 to 2008, Kocharian was the leader of Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The region, which is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that killed some 30,000 people and displaced as many as 1 million. Deadly fighting breaks out intermittently.

Since 1994, when a cease-fire agreement was reached, it has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces that Baku says include troops supplied by Armenia.

No country has recognized it as an independent state.

(file photo)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it is "appalled" by the withdrawal of state advertising from Pakistan’s oldest newspaper Dawn for the past month, saying that this "crude intimidatory tactic" is jeopardizing the newspaper’s editorial independence.

The English-language daily has been deprived of any income from federal government advertising since April 24, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said in a statement on May 23.

The paper's sister media outlet, DawnNews TV, was subjected to the same method of "pressure and intimidation" two days later, it added.

"As Pakistan is a country where almost no advertising revenue is available from a fledgling private sector independent of the government, this advertising ban poses a grave threat to the media group’s economic viability," according to RSF.

The watchdog said that Dawn, which it described as "one of the last bastions of press freedom in Pakistan," has been in the "deep state’s sights" since October 2016, when the newspaper published an article on the way the powerful military and intelligence agencies defy the civilian government.

In May 2018, distribution of the paper was blocked after it published an interview in which former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made comments critical of the military.

The latest move against Dawn came after it published comments made by Prime Minister Imran Khan during a visit to Tehran in which he said Pakistan-based militants had been involved in attacks inside Iran.

The story was based on quotes from the official transcript of the press conference, RSF said.

"It is unacceptable that a newspaper that just reports undisputed facts in the public interest should be punished with such a drastic form of economic strangulation," said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

Bastard added that the ad ban "bears the military establishment’s hallmark" and "harks back to the worst moments of military dictatorship in Pakistan.”

Pakistan ranks 142nd out of 180 countries listed on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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