13 May 2019 14:37

Kocharyan trial in Yerevan starts with motion to arrest him

YEREVAN. May 13 (Interfax) - Yerevan Court of General Jurisdiction has begun the hearing of the case involving Armenia's ex-president Robert Kocharyan, who is charged with overthrowing the constitutional system, an Interfax correspondent has reported.

The Monday hearing addresses the issue of the ex-president's arrest, he said.

The trial is open to the public. Robert Kocharyan is present at the court hearing. The ex-president's supporters and relatives greeted him by shouting the word "Freedom!" The ex-president's supporters are holding a protest in front of the court building, demanding his release.

Kocharian's son Levon Kocharian told reporters in court his father was a victim of political persecution.

"I agree with my father that he is being politically persecuted. The charge is not connected with him in any way. I hope the court will make a fair decision," Kocharian said.

On April 30, the Armenian Prosecutor General's Office published a bill of indictment in the case of Kocharyan and several other former high-ranking Armenian officials.

The Armenian Special Investigation Service said earlier it had completed the preliminary inquiry into the case of events March 2008 in which Kocharyan was charged with overthrowing the constitutional system and taking a large bribe. The case and bill of indictment were referred to court.

Other defendants in the case are former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan, former Deputy Defense Minister and CSTO Secretary General Yury Khachaturov, and former Presidential Chief of Staff and Prime Minister Armen Gevorkyan.

The case concerns the events of 2008 when Kocharyan was preparing for handing over power to winning candidate Serzh Sargsyan. Protests were organized by followers of presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosyan. Armenian authorities dispersed several-thousand-strong protests on March 1, 2008. Ten people were killed, and more than 250 were injured as a result.

Incumbent Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was a member of Ter-Petrosyan's campaign in 2008. He was wanted following the riots of March 1, 2008, and surrendered to the authorities in 2009. In January 2010, Pashinyan was sentenced to seven years on counts of mass riots. He was amnestied in May 2011. After being elected prime minister in May 2018, Pashinyan said that the March 1 case would inevitably have to be reopened.