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Armenian Court Orders Release Of Ex-President Kocharian From Pretrial Detention

Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian greets supporters during his trial in Yerevan on May 15.

YEREVAN -- А court has ordered the release of former President Robert Kocharian from pretrial detention after current and former leaders of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region provided personal guarantees.

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.

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

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.

Asked earlier in the week about the offer of guarantees from the Nagorno-Karabakh officials, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said: "from a moral standpoint I find it normal, but from a political standpoint there are some questions."

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

The disputed Azerbaijani region that has been under de facto Armenian control since early 1994, when a multiyear conflict ended with a cease-fire. Around 30,000 people died in the fighting, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

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.