Armenian general charged with ex-president released on bail
YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — An Armenian general who is charged along with the country’s former president with violating constitutional order a decade ago has been released from custody after posting bail.
Col.-Gen. Yuri Khachaturov and former President Robert Kocharian are charged in connection with the order to send police and soldiers to break up a demonstration in the Armenian capital in March 2008. Eight demonstrators and two police died in the clash. Khachaturov was head of the capital’s military garrison at the time.
Kocharian was charged Thursday and put in custody for two months late Friday. Khachaturov was charged Friday and released Saturday on bail of 5 million drams ($10,500).
Khachaturov is secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance that also includes Russia and four other former Soviet republics. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said Saturday that the country is asking alliance partners to begin the process of replacing him in that post.
The demonstration that ended in fatal clashes was to protest the results of an election two weeks earlier for Kocharian’s replacement.
Kocharian backers claim the case is politically motivated. In the 2008 election, Kocharian backed Serzh Sargsyan, who was declared winner and served as president of Armenia for a decade. After facing term limits as president, Sargsyan became prime minister in April but resigned six days later in the face of mass protests against the move, which was seen as a way to keep his grip on power.
After Sargsyan’s resignation, opposition leader Nikol Pashinian became prime minister, the country’s most powerful position.
Kocharian aide Viktor Sogomonyan on Saturday called the charge and detention a political and personal “vendetta” by the country’s new leadership.