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Armenian Prosecutors Appeal Ruling Releasing Ex-President Kocharian From Detention

Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian (file photo)
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.

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