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Robert Kocharyan Charged Over 2008 Yerevan Violence

Ex-president and the once-mighty Republican Party accuse new authorities of waging a vendetta against foes.

31 July 2018

Armenia’s former President Robert Kocharyan and a general who heads a Eurasian security grouping have been charged with subverting public order when security forces shot and killed 10 people during protests against the disputed presidential election in 2008.

 

In bringing legal weaponry to bear on Kocharyan, the government that came to power last spring after a bloodless uprising is showing its determination to crush the former ruling Republican Party, which critics say was a symbol of corruption and authoritarian rule for two decades.

 

Kocharyan was charged on 26 July and appeared in court the next day. In a TV interview, he called the charges against him “political persecution” and a “vendetta” aimed at isolating him from upcoming snap parliamentary elections, OC Media writes, citing the Armenian service of RFE/RL.

 

Kocharyan, the second president of independent Armenia, imposed a state of emergency in February 2008 when supporters of his predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, massed on a Yerevan square for 10 days demanding a reversal of election results giving the presidency to Kocharyan’s political ally, Serzh Sargsyan.

 

Yerevan protest 2008Riot police in Yerevan, 1 March 2008. Photo by Serouj/Wikimedia Commons

 

Eight civilians and two police officers were killed when police used heavy weaponry to disperse the crowds on 1 March 2008, JAM News writes.

 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who led the spring protests against the entrenched rule of Sargsyan and his Republican Party, was a Ter-Petrosyan supporter in 2008 and went into hiding after being accused of organizing “mass riots.” He voluntarily turned himself in to police in 2010 and served just under two years of a seven-year sentence.

 

The investigation into Kocharyan’s use of force in 2008 also caught up with Yuri Khachaturov, the commander of the Yerevan military garrison at the time. As Eurasianet.org reports, last year he was named secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a loose association of former Soviet states dominated by Russia.

 

The charges against Khachaturov – “subverting public order” – relate specifically to his role in the 2008 events and are unconnected to his current position, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said.

 

Mediamax.am reports today, quoting Balayan, that Armenia is “actively discussing” a replacement for Khachaturov with its CSTO partners.

 

 

  • The Republican Party issued a statement saying the accusations against Kocharyan “leave the impression of political persecution” and are “absurd” from a legal standpoint, as Kocharyan was constitutionally empowered to use force against perceived threats to the country.

 

  • Sargsyan has so far escaped the government’s clampdown on what it says are corrupt elements of the still-powerful Republican Party. His two brothers were not so lucky: younger brother Aleksander (Sashik) was detained early this month, along with his son Hayk, and older brother Levon is facing criminal proceedings on suspicion of tax evasion.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
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