YEREVAN—Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) on Thursday, July 26, officially charged Armenia’s former president Robert Kocharian for “usurping state power” under article 300 of the criminal code. The charges stem from the events of March 1, 2008, when eight civilians and two police officers were killed during a post presidential-election opposition protest. If convicted, Kocharian faces imprisonment for 10 to 15 years. The investigators have asked a court to issue an arrest warrant for Kocharian.
Earlier this month, the SIS charged Armenia’s Defense Minister at the time Mikael Harutiunyan with the same offense. On July 3, SIS charged that on February 23, 2008, Harutiunyan secretly and illegally ordered the army to help enforce the official vote results. Military units began moving in to Yerevan in the following days and were actively engaged in the ensuing crackdown that resulted in the 10 deaths.
Kocharian told Yerkir Media TV that the case against him was “a vendetta.” Kocharian has consistently defended his actions during the crackdown, saying it prevented an illegal seizing of power by the opposition led by another former president, Levon Ter-Petrosian.
Previously, the Prosecutor-General had indicated an inability to question Kocharyan over the events. However, after coming to power, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had ordered the SIS to investigate the use of lethal force in the 2008 unrest and appointed Sasun Khachatrian to head the organization.
Paragraph 1 of Article 300 of the criminal code states, “Usurping state power, i.e. seizure of state power, in violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, or keeping it with violence, as well as, actions aimed at the overthrowing of constitutional order of the Republic of Armenia, or the violent breach of territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia, is punished with imprisonment for the term of 10 to 15 years.”