Armenia appeals court releases former president Robert Kocharian from custody
©Wikimedia (Pandukht)

Armenia appeals court releases former president Robert Kocharian from custody

The Criminal Court of Appeal of the Republic of Armenia [official website] on Monday released [Asbarez report] former president Robert Kocharian from custody, saying he was unconstitutionally taken into custody in 2008.

According to Kocharian’s lawyer, Ruben Sahakyan, the court’s decision hinged on article 140 of Armenia’s Constitution [text, PDF]. Specifically, the constitution declares 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.”

Kocharian was held in contempt for actions during his presidency in March 2008 after the contested presidential election. After a surprising defeat of opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian, Koncharian declared [JURIST report] a state of emergency and issued a decree lifting media restrictions [JURIST reports], which were put in place after the election. The events led to a standoff and caused eight civilian and two police officer deaths.

The Special Investigative Service (SIS) immediately criticized the court’s decision, calling it illegal and politically motivated. The SIS is urging the Prosecutor General’s office to appeal.