YEREVAN—Armenia’s Criminal Court of Appeals on Monday ruled former president Robert Kocharian’s pre-trial custody as unconstitutional and immediately released him overturning a lower court decision, based on which he was remanded into custody after being charged with breaching Armenia’s constitutional order in connection with the March 1, 2008 post-elect standoff between protesters and police that resulted in the deaths of eight civilians and two police officers.
“We are satisfied with the court ruling,” said one of Kocharian’s attorneys, Ruben Sahakyan who explained that the ruling was based on article 140 of Armenia’s Constitution which stipulates that “during the term of his or her powers and thereafter, the President of the Republic may not be prosecuted and subjected to liability for actions deriving from his or her status.”
While Kocharian still stands accused of the charges, his attorney Sahakyan did not rule out the possibility that the entire case against Kocharian could be thrown out based on the same constitutional provision.
Monday’s court ruling did not sit well with the Special Investigative Service, which immediately called it illegal.
“The decision of the Criminal Court of Appeal of the Republic of Armenia is illegal and the court has overstepped its boundaries. We hope the Prosecutor General’s office will file an appeal to the Court of Cassation,” the SIS said in a statement.
The Prosecutor General’s office, which last week had declined an appeal submitted by 46 members of parliament, signaled that after reviewing the entire decision, it will begin a process of appeals. Kocharian’s attorney Sahakyan also said that his team was anticipating an appeal and will form a strategy to fight that in a higher court.
Immediately after being charged on July 26, Kocharian told Yerkir Media in an exclusive interview that the charges were politically motivated and called them a “political vendetta.”
Also charged alongside Kocharian are former Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunyan and former Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Khachaturov. While Harutiunyan has been remanded, Khachaturov was released on bail and allowed to travel to Moscow where he serves as the Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.