On July 27th, Robert Kocharyan, Armenia’s second President was arrested, after a Court in Yerevan authorized the action.
Sputnik News reported that Aram Orbelyan, Kocharyan’s lawyer, said that the ex-President was arrested in connection with suppressing the protests in the country on March 1, 2008. He was charged with overthrowing Armenia’s constitutional order by suppressing the protests in 2008.
Also, on July 27th, Colonel General Yuri Khachaturov, the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s (CSTO) secretary general and former Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia, who was also charged in connection with 2008 protests, was released on bail. Mihran Poghosyan, the Colonel General’s lawyer, quoted by Tert, said that Khachaturov will not be allowed to leave Armenia, adding that they may, upon necessity, submit a request to the inquest body.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is a regional grouping that includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, as well as Armenia.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) has officially charged both Kocharyan and Khachaturov with Part 1 of the Article 300.1 of the RA Criminal Code. The SIS said that specifically Kocharyan’s actions amounted to a “overthrowing of constitutional order of the Republic of Armenia.”
Kocharyan, who served as president in the post-election protests of March 1, 2008 declared a 20-day state of emergency, with the approval of the Armenian parliament, banning future demonstrations and censoring the media from broadcasting any political news except those issued by official state press releases. The decision was rationalized due to the actions of a minority of demonstrators that looted a grocery store on Mashtots Avenue and set fire to several police vehicles and buses. In an interview with Yerkir, Kocharyan mentioned the killing of the first police officer as the reason for the state of emergency.
After a three-hour questioning, Kocharyan was escorted out of the SIS out of a back door, to avoid the press. In an interview with TV station Yerkir, the former president called the charges against him ‘political persecution’ and a ‘vendetta’ aiming to ‘isolate’ him from upcoming snap parliamentary elections. Furthermore, News.am quoted Kocharyan as saying that the political persecution was a ‘a dangerous moment for the country’ and ‘a bomb under the foundation of statehood’. ‘I can imagine the jubilation that will break in Azerbaijan. Go on, give them a present like this!’
Viktor Soghomonyan, the head of Armenian second President Robert Kocharyan’s office in a press conference, on July 28th spoke strongly against the arrest of the former president. His statement was: “Criminal proceedings against Robert Kocharyan and his detention are illegal. This is an apparent political and personal persecution. This is “vendetta”, which has no legal basis.” According to Soghomonyan: “Quick detention, quick accusation by the Special Investigation Service… what are the grounds for this all? He was detained illegally, a criminal case was forged against him. We demand his immediate release.”
On July 3rd, the SIS also revealed charges against former defense minister Mikael Harutyunyan. In addition to the charges with Part 1 of the Article 300.1 of the RA Criminal Code, he was also charged with “usurping state power.” The charges were explained that Harutyunyan “and other persons” conspired to use the military against protesters by issuing an order to form a unit of military officers tasked with putting down the riots, as reported by Eurasianet. He, however resides in Moscow, and due to Russia’s non-extradition policy for its citizens can only willingly turn himself in.
All these arrests have followed Nikol Pashinyan’s taking of the Prime Minister seat on May 8th, after the April 12th “Velvet” Revolution in Armenia. The Armenian opposition triggered this crisis and used it to pursue a regime change, using various, among which unconstitutional, measures.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, an active supporter of Ter-Petrosyan, was imprisoned in 2010 after accusations of being of the organizers of the 2008 protests. He, at the time editor-in-chief of Armenian daily Haykakan Zhamanak, was sentenced to seven years of prison, however he was released in 2011 under amnesty. In March, before the ousting of Serzh Sargsyan, as reported by OC Media, Pashinyan demanded that Kocharyan be questioned over allegations which demonstrators shot at security forces, which according to Kocharyan led to the state of emergency in 2008. In March, the General Prosecutor’s Office refused to summon the former president, however on June 12th, Pashiniyan publicly called on the SIS to investigate the killings.
The Prime Minister’s opposition describes the recent arrests as politically-motivated actions.
Armen Ashotyan, a member of parliament in Sargsyan’s Republican Party of Armenia and prominent critic of Pashinyan’s crackdown on the alleged crimes of the former administrations. His exact words were: “This isn’t a vendetta, this is a legal orgy and political terror.”
On July 27th, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation released a statement. It welcomed the recent developments in the country which seek the establishment of legality, equality before the law and elimination of the atmosphere of impunity. In regard to the arrests the statement had the following to say: “In this context, we also consider the objective, impartial and comprehensive investigation of the tragic events of March 1, 2008. In this regard, the accusation against the second President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and other representatives of that power on the events of March 1 is worrisome and can be interpreted as political persecution.”