Kocharyan hearing adjourned amid peremptory challenge of judge

Ex-President Robert Kocharyan has filed a peremptory challenge of judge against Judge Armen Danielyan who is presiding over the ongoing hearing of the General Prosecution’s appeals against the former Armenian leader’s release from custody and the suspension of the March 1 trial. The March 1 trial was suspended by another judge and sent to the Constitutional Court for validation earlier.

Kocharyan’s attorney Hayk Alumyan filed the motion requesting Judge Danielyan to recuse himself. Alumyan accused the judge of being “the judge who seldom makes rulings that contradict the prosecution’s stance”.

Kocharyan’s lawyer said the judge was given the case in “suspicious circumstances”.

He also argues that the two different complaints of the prosecution should’ve been assigned to two different judges.

Kocharyan himself took the floor and reiterated the peremptory challenge. “I am urging you to also understand that in this case it is extremely important to dispel this kind of suspicions, and it is impossible to do so without a recusal,” he told the judge.

The prosecution objected the motion and said Kocharyan’s arguments do not constitute grounds for requesting a recusal.

The hearing eventually adjourned until June 14th, 10:30.

Ex-Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan’s and ex-military official Yuri Khachaturov’s lawyers were also taking part in the hearing.

The March 1 events colloquially refer to the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan, when clashes between security forces and protesters left 10 people, including two security officers dead. The unrest spanned from late February until late March. The events are known simply as March First because it was on this day when police troops violently dispersed protesters in downtown Yerevan.

The protests were led by First President of Armenia Levon-Ter Petrosyan, who according to official results of the election lost to Serzh Sargsyan. Ter-Petrosyan’s supporters believed the election was rigged.

Robert Kocharyan was the outgoing president at the time.

Incumbent PM Nikol Pashinyan was a senior member of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s political party at the time and was coordinating the protests.

Kocharyan, as well as several other ex-officials, are charged with “overthrowing constitutional order”. The former president is accused in unlawfully ordering the military to intervene in the 2008 unrest. He is also charged with bribery.

Kocharyan vehemently denies wrongdoing.

He was jailed for around 6 months in pre-trial detention before controversially being released in May.

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