An Armenian court on Friday announced the arrest of former president Robert Kocharyan, whom special investigators had recently charged with usurping power.
Yerevan City Court of General Jurisdiction announced Kocharyan’s detention less than a day after Armenian investigators filed a motion to have him arrested.
One of Kocharyan’s defense lawyers, Aram Orbelyan, refused to give any further details of the arrest, citing the confidentiality of the preliminary investigation. He said his team is preparing a response that will be read at a news conference July 28.
Mikael Harutyunyan, Kocharyan’s former defense chief, has also been charged in the case. It is not known whether he has been arrested.
Kocharyan’s arrest comes three months after a transfer of power in the ex-Soviet country following weeks of mass protests against corruption and cronyism.
Kocharyan served as Armenia’s second president from 1998 to 2008, and investigators have charged him with an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order during post-election events in March 2008 when his ally, Serzh Sarksyan, was elected the next president.
In February-March 2008 the opposition held protest rallies, contesting the results of the election and claiming that their candidate, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, had won the vote.
The protests were dispersed and 10 people were killed in clashes with police. The Constitutional Court upheld the election results.
Nikol Pashinyan, an opposition activist at the time who was imprisoned in June 2009 on charges of fomenting unrest during post-election protests, was elected prime minister by parliament on May 8 this year.
Kocharyan, who just returned from Europe, said the latest charges were politically motivated, but added he was ready to spend time in prison.
“These charges are fiction, fabricated, unjustified and have a political implication,” he told an independent Armenian Yerkir Media TV, adding that he would refuse to testify or cooperate with investigators “because of the trumped up nature of charges.”
However, Kocharyan said, he did not intend to run away.
“I’m going to go sit in prison and fight to the end.”
After the deadly clashes, the United States issued a report condemning what it called “arbitrary and unlawful killings.”
On Friday, a State Department spokesperson said: “The United States has consistently urged Armenia’s authorities to conduct a serious, credible and independent investigation into these events. We continue to stress to our Armenian partners the importance of respecting internationally recognized standards that relate to the administration of justice.”
Numerous allies of former presidents Sarksyan and Kocharyan have been involved in a series of unrelated anti-corruption probes launched under Pashinyan’s administration.
In a recent interview with VOA’s Armenian Service, Ararat Mirzoyan, Pashinyan’s deputy prime minister, said none of the anti-corruption probes are politically motivated.
“This is not our fault that the 99 percent of all discoveries deal with people from a certain political party,” he said. “That is the party that has been in power. That is the party that refused to transfer the power. That is the party that used all levers to extend their personal power. There is no intent there, rather just statistics. We said that there will be no political vendetta, and we are confident in that.”
This story originated in VOA’s Armenian Service. Some information is from Reuters.