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Rival Protests Staged As Ex-President Kocharian's Trial Enters Second Day

Anti-Kocharian protesters in Yerevan on May 14
Anti-Kocharian protesters in Yerevan on May 14

YEREVAN -- Rival protests were being staged on May 14 outside of a court building in Yerevan by supporters and opponents of Armenian ex-President Robert Kocharian as his trial on charges of overthrowing the constitutional order entered its second day.

The court was expected to announce its decision regarding Kocharian's pretrial restrictions -- clarifying whether he might be released on bail or be transferred to house arrest during the trial.

The court also was expected to rule on a call by Kocharian's lawyers for another judge to preside over the trial.

Kocharian's co-defendants, former presidential chief of staff Armen Gevorgian and the retired army generals Seyran Ohanian and Yuri Khachaturov, are not being held during the trial.

Robert Kocharian in court in Yerevan on May 13
Robert Kocharian in court in Yerevan on May 13

The four are accused of overthrowing the constitutional order during the final weeks of Kocharian’s decade-long rule that ended in April 2008.

More specifically, they have been accused of illegally ordering security officers to use force against opposition supporters who were protesting alleged fraud in the disputed February 2008 presidential election.

Eight protesters and two police officers were killed when security forces quelled the two days of protests that began on March 1, 2008. The crackdown came after Kocharian declared a three-week state of emergency.

All of the defendants deny any wrongdoing.

Kocharian and Gevorgian are also charged with bribe-taking. They both deny that charge as well.

The preliminary phase of the trial began on May 13. The court has not yet examined the charges in the case.

The 64-year-old Kocharian, who served as Armenia's president from 1998 to 2008, has remained in pretrial detention since his arrest in December.

Kocharian has said the accusations are part of a political "vendetta" against him by incumbent Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

Pashinian, a former opposition lawmaker, was swept into power in 2018 after leading protests that ousted Kocharian's former ally and successor, Serzh Sarkisian.

Pashinian played a key role in the 2008 protests and spent nearly two years in prison on charges linked to it.

He has strongly defended the criminal case against Kocharian and denies orchestrating it.

Kocharian faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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