An Armenian judge has dropped a criminal case against former President Robert Kocharian and his co-defendants over a deadly crackdown on protesters more than a decade ago.
Anna Danibekian, the judge presiding over the two-year trial in Yerevan, threw out the coup charges on April 6, 11 days after the Constitutional Court found “invalid” an article of the Criminal Code under which the accused were being prosecuted.
However, Danibekian ruled that Kocharian and his former chief of staff, Armen Gevorgian, will continue to stand trial on bribery charges which they also deny.
Kocharian, who served as president from 1998 to 2008, and two retired generals, Yuri Khachaturov and Seyran Ohanian, were charged in 2018 with overthrowing the constitutional order.
The charge stemmed from clashes during postelection protests in Yerevan in 2008 during which eight demonstrators and two police officers died.
The 66-year-old ex-president has rejected the allegations against him as political retaliation by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
He was released from detention in June 2020 after paying a record $4.1 million bail.
Pashinian was one of the organizers of the 2008 protest and was ultimately jailed until being released in 2011 under a government amnesty. He came to power in 2018 after leading massive demonstrations that ousted his predecessor.
Danibekian’s decision comes as Armenia prepares for early parliamentary elections in June, triggered by opposition demands Pashinian step down over his leadership during a six-week war with Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, which ended in what many Armenians felt was a humiliating defeat.
Kocharian, a native of Nagorno-Karabakh, was one of the leaders of the region's separatist forces and was Nagorno-Karabakh’s first de facto president between December 1994 and March 1997.
In January, Kocharian said he would participate in any early elections.