Constitutional court’s ruling cannot serve as a ground to change preventive measure against ex-president Kocharyan, minister says

ARKA, Armenia
Sept 5 2019

YEREVAN, September 5. /ARКА/. A ruling of Armenia’s Constitutional Court that declared Wednesday unconstitutional a legal provision that has been used by law-enforcement authorities for arresting and prosecuting former President Robert Kocharyan cannot serve as a ground to change the preventive measure against ex-president, Justice Minister Rustam Badasyan told in an interview to Shant TV channel today.

Kocharyan's petitions asked the Court to declare unconstitutional two articles of the Armenian Code of Procedural Justice-  part 2 of Article 135 (defamation in public speaking) and Article 35 (preparation for crime), which law-enforcement authorities used to arrest him.

Kocharyan's lawyers argue that the Armenian Constitution gives their client immunity from prosecution for the crackdown on the opposition after the contested 2008 presidential election.

According to the  minister, the Constitutional Court deliberated the constitutionality of two articles, and part 2 of Article 135, which is about verifying the criterion of the main charge in discussing the issue of arrest, was found to be in conformity with the Constitution.

'This may clearly indicate that the issue of changing the preventive measure against Kocharyan cannot be raised. Nevertheless, it will be unserious to make unambiguous conclusions judging by the final part of the ruling only without reading the justification. It is t part 2 of Article 135 that was not recognized as unconstitutional," Badasyan said.

Asked whether the Constitutional Court was competent to make a decision on Kocharyan, the minister noted that one of the judges of the Constitutional Court argued that at least three members of the Court could not participate in the deliberation of the issue, and the Court did not make any decision on that.

According to him, if there was evidence of the impossibility of their participation, then the judges of the Constitutional Court were obliged to declare that. In accordance with the established procedure, a relevant decision should have been made. "In this sense, the process was in some ways questionable," the minister  said, emphasizing  that any decision of the Constitutional Court is subject to mandatory implementation.

The case dates back to late February and early March 2008 following the disputed presidential election, when then prime minister Serzh Sargsyan was declared the winner, angering the opposition, led by the first Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrosyan and setting off 10 days of nonstop protests that led to a crackdown on March 1, in which 10 people were killed and more than 200 injured.

The same charge is brought against Yuri Khachaturov, who had been the chief of the Yerevan garrison at the time of the bloody events. Khachaturov was detained by then released on a 5 million dram bail. Also former defense minister Mikael Harutyunyan is wanted by the law-enforcement authorities as a defendant in the case.  He is accused of illegally using the Armenian armed forces against opposition supporters who demonstrated in Yerevan in the wake of the disputed presidential election held in February 2008. -0—

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS