Armenia court orders re-arrest of former president

Robert Kocharyan

YEREVAN — A court in Armenia on Tuesday ordered the arrest of former President Robert Kocharyan, several weeks after he was released on bail pending judgment in his trial for "overthrowing the constitutional order".

Kocharyan, 64, was first arrested in July last year but eventually released from custody last month.

On Tuesday, Judge Armen Danielyan issued the warrant for his re-arrest in the court of appeals in the capital Yerevan.

The ruling came more than a month after protesters picketed courts across the country to protest Kocharyan's release from custody, responding to call by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

The former head of state, who has denounced the charges against him as politically motivated, faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

Kocharyan led the ex-Soviet nation for a decade up to 2008, when his hand-picked ally Serzh Sarkisian was elected to succeed him.

He stands accused of "overthrowing the constitutional order" for having allegedly tipped the presidential poll in favor of his successor Sarkisian.

After the 2008 election, tensions erupted into violent clashes between riot police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate, who denounced the vote as fraudulent.

Ten people including two police officers were killed in the ensuing clashes.

Kocharyan's ally Sarkisian led the South Caucasus nation until April last year when mass protests spearheaded by Pashinyan forced him from power.

In 2009, Pashinyan was arrested for organizing the 2008 post-electoral protests and sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released in an amnesty in 2011. — AFP