Armenia ex-President’s corruption trial ends without verdict

Armenia ex-President’s corruption trial ends without verdict

PanARMENIAN.Net - A court in Yerevan ended the marathon trial of former President Robert Kocharyan on Wednesday, December 27 after he agreed to plead the statute of limitations despite strongly denying corruption charges leveled against him, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reports.

Kocharyan, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, was first arrested in July 2018 shortly after the “velvet revolution” that brought Nikol Pashinyan to power. He initially faced only charges stemming from a 2008 post-election crackdown on opposition protesters in Yerevan.

The ex-president was subsequently also charged with receiving a $3 million bribe from an Armenian businesswoman. He, his former chief of staff Armen Gevorgyan and two retired army generals, went on trial in May 2019. They all rejected the accusations as politically motivated. Kocharian claimed that they are part of a “political vendetta” waged by Pashinyan.

The coup charges against the defendants were dropped after Armenia’s Constitutional Court declared them unconstitutional in 2021. Kocharyan and Gevorgyan continued to stand trial for the alleged bribery.

Anna Danibekyan, the judge presiding over the trial, closed the case without acquitting or convicting Kocharyan. She argued that Kocharian has invoked the statute of limitations that expired in May this year.

Kocharyan refused to make such a plea at the time, saying that he will keep fighting for his formal acquittal. One of his lawyers, Mihran Poghosyan, said he has changed his mind because he now needs to go abroad for an urgent medical examination. In recent weeks, Danibekyan has repeatedly declined to allow Kocharyan to leave Armenia, Poghosyan told reporters.

Kocharyan was last released from custody on bail in June 2020. The end of his trial means that the bail money worth 2 billion drams ($5 million) will be returned to his daughter Gayane. The presiding judge also unfroze the 69-year-old ex-president’s assets.

Kocharyan, who now leads Armenia’s largest opposition alliance, would not go to jail even if he was found guilty.

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