Three presidents of Artsakh in Yerevan court on May 16, 2019.
Photo by Aram Nersesyan for Sputnik Armenii.

Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan lashed out at Artsakh leaders after a court in Yerevan satisfied their bail request to release ex-president Robert Kocharyan from pre-trial detention. By another decision, the court stopped the proceedings against Kocharyan and requested that the Constitutional Court review the charges.

Kocharyan has been accused of improper use of the armed forces in the context of post-2008 election clashes between police and the opposition. State prosecutors allege this amounted to “an overthrow of constitutional order” or, in other words, a coup. Kocharyan’s defense contends his actions were legal and stemmed from his position as president and therefore covered by constitutionally-mandated immunity from prosecution.

After the March 1, 2008 violence when eight civilians and two police servicemen were killed, the then Armenian government brought similar “coup” charges against leading opposition activists, Pashinyan among them, but subsequently dropped them. After remaining in hiding for over a year, Pashinyan spent nearly two years in prison, prior to his release on amnesty.

Kocharyan was first arrested in July, but released the following month, when a court cited the immunity clause. The prosecutors subsequently succeeded in overturning the ruling and again arrested Kocharyan last December. He remained in pre-trial detention until May 18, when another court satisfied the bail request from president Bako Sahakyan and his predecessor Arkady Ghoukasyan. The two initially requested Kocharyan’s release to join them and ex-president Serzh Sargsyan at May 9 Victory Day celebrations in Stepanakert, but that request was denied.

Writing on his facebook after visiting Stepanakert on May 9, Pashinyan issued a veiled warning of a “revolution” that would presumably overthrow its current government, should it engage in “counterrevolutionary” activity, such as supporting Sargsyan or Kocharyan. On May 16, Pashinyan told Russian media that the bail request “raised political questions.”

In a speech on May 20, he pledged to take “drastic measures” against some unnamed officials “conspiring” against him, alleging they were committing “state treason.” While he did not name them, Pashinyan’s comments appeared to be directed against Sargsyan and Sahakyan. He also suggested that the parliament should investigate the government’s response, then led by Sargsyan and Sahakyan, during the April 2016 war.

Meeting with Pashinyan’s parliamentary majority leaders on May 20, Sahakyan said he saw no issue with a parliamentary inquiry, but that he was unaware of any conspiracies against Pashinyan. There were no reports of direct Pashinyan-Sahakyan meeting.

Last year, Sahakyan reportedly helped smooth the transition of power from Sargsyan to Pashinyan during what the latter termed a “velvet revolution.” Subsequently, as protests broke out in Stepanakert, Pashinyan gave “unconditional” backing to Sahakyan to implement “reforms” in Artsakh. But relations became more awkward towards the end of last year, as Sahakyan’s subordinates criticized members of Pashinyan’s team, and the latter warned them “to sit in their places.”