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Former Armenian President Kocharian Charged With Bribe-Taking

Former President Robert Kocharian
Former President Robert Kocharian

YEREVAN -- Armenian investigators have filed a new bribe-taking charge against former President Robert Kocharian, who was previously charged with violating the country's constitutional system.

The new charge stems from allegations that businesswoman Silva Hambartsumian was forced to pay a bribe to an Armenian minister, Kocharian's lawyer Aram Orbelian told RFE/RL on February 12.

The lawyer did not provide any more information.

Hambartsumian told RFE/RL in October that she had to pay a $14 million bribe in 2008 to then-Environment Minister Aram Harutyunian.

In January, a court in Yerevan ordered Harutyunian's arrest, but his current whereabouts is unknown.

Kocharian was initially arrested in July on charges stemming from his government's deadly use of force against opposition protesters during the final weeks of his 1998-2008 rule.

His arrest came after former opposition leader Nikol Pashinian was elected prime minister in May following peaceful protests that he spearheaded, severely weakening the establishment that had been in place in the South Caucasus country since Kocharian's rule.

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

Eight protesters and two police personnel were killed when security forces engaged in clashes with the protesters on March 1-2, 2008.

Kocharian denies the accusations, saying Armenia’s current government is waging a political “vendetta” against him.

Kocharian, 64, was freed on August 13 by an appeals court that ruled the constitution gave him immunity from prosecution in connection with the 2008 violence.

Kocharian announced he was returning to politics just days after his release from a Yerevan detention center, but he did not run in snap December 9 parliamentary elections that helped cement Pashinian's power.

A court reinstated Kocharian's pretrial detention two days before the elections, and he has been in custody since then.

Since his initial release in August, Kocharian has repeatedly accused Pashinian’s government of endangering the country’s national security, undermining its relations with Russia, and lacking economic programs.

Pashinian has defended the criminal charges against Kocharian, declaring on August 17 that “all murderers will go to prison.”

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