September 26
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After the change of power in the Republic of Armenia in 2018, the most controversial case of the overthrow of the constitutional order, or the so-called "March 1" case, collapsed on Tuesday. The Court of First Instance of the Republic of Armenia, based on the decision of the Constitutional Court to declare Article 300.1 of the Criminal Code unconstitutional and invalid, terminated the criminal prosecution against 4 former high-ranking officials accused under that article, acquitted them, and terminated the case.

With this, we can say that a new phase of PM Nikol Pashinyan's three-year rule began. Pashinyan had built his 2018 election campaign almost entirely on the promises of inciting hatred against the main defendants in the "March 1" case, in particular, second President Robert Kocharyan, making him the main person responsible for "March 1," and holding him accountable for it. Moreover, during these years, in order to neutralize the negative public reaction to all the big shortcomings of his government, Pashinyan has always played the card of the "March 1" case and manipulated it. And quite recently in the Republic Square in Yerevan Nikol Pashinyan even announced that the background of the murders in the "March 1" case has been solved.

During the past three years, Robert Kocharyan spent about 500 days in prison. His lawyers repeatedly petitioned the court to change the measure of restraint chosen for their client, taking into account that Kocharyan had no intention of hiding from the criminal case, which he proved by returning to Armenia from abroad after the criminal case was initiated and appearing before the body conducting the proceedings.

In the meantime, then President of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Bako Sahakyan and former President Arkady Ghukasyan submitted a letter of pledge to change the detention of the second president, which was granted, but Kocharyan was returned to detention shortly after, after enormous pressure on the Court of Appeal. Courts of different instances were denying numerous motions of lawyers to change his measure of restraint, release him on bail, letters of pledge, arguing and substantiating all that, but most of those motions were being denied. During this period, Robert Kocharyan was released three times by the decision of different courts, and despite the fact that he did not violate the regulations, the prosecutors were again submitting motions to detain him again, and other judges were granting these motions.

Obsessed with having Kocharyan "sit" in prison, the revolutionary authorities of Armenia, particularly Prime Minister Pashinyan, have repeatedly resorted to gross violations of the law, which have been severely criticized by the public, professional, public and political circles, but in vain; the authorities were doing everything to achieve their goal.

In September 2018, the recording of a telephone conversation between the then director of the National Security Service Artur Vanetsyan and the head of the Special Investigation Service Sasun Khachatryan appeared on the Internet, which clearly showed that the persecution of ex-President Robert Kocharyan and CSTO former Secretary General Yuri Khachaturov—who is charged under the same case—was ordered by Nikol Pashinyan personally, and the task was to detain them at any cost. When President Kocharyan was released for the second time by a court decision, Pashinyan, being the country's prime minister, organized a blockade of the courts, persecutions began against Judge Davit Grigoryan, who had released Kocharyan, and public threats were being made against judges—even by officials.

The defense team and the judge who released Kocharyan initially saw a problem with the constitutionality of the law underlying the criminal case and appealed to the Constitutional Court. Prime Minister Pashinyan made several unsuccessful attempts to change the composition of the Constitutional Court launched holding a budget-costly constitutional referendum by changing the article of the Constitution, which, however, was interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the end, bypassing some requirements of the legislation, Pashinyan removed Hrayr Tovmasyan from the post of the President of the Constitutional Court and inserted several judges he wanted into this high court.

During this whole process, many public and political figures, local and foreign lawyers, human rights activists have raised an alarm that the persecution of Kocharyan is obviously political, and the only purpose of changing the composition of the Constitutional Court is to get the desired decisions for the authorities, and especially in this case. But even with the desired composition of the Constitutional Court, Pashinyan could not provide the desired outcome for the decision, apparently because the renewed composition of the Constitutional Court was not even ready to make a decision contrary to the opinions of the Venice Commission and the ECHR just because Prime Minister Pashinyan wants it.

During these three years, Armenia went through many trials, including a disgraceful defeat and a war with thousands of casualties, and at the same time, the government considered second President Robert Kocharyan as its main political opponent.

Since coming to power, Nikol Pashinyan, waging a fierce struggle and aiming to neutralize Kocharyan from the political field by any means, got the opposite: the second president became the number one opponent for this government. He was the first to announce that he was going to run in the upcoming snap parliamentary elections in person and publicly expressed confidence that he would win. Kocharyan had expressed such confidence while waiting for the decision on the first arrest, when he announced that he would not avoid fighting with the investigation bodies and if necessary, he was ready for arrest, but he would fight, win and prove his innocence.

The results of the upcoming elections will show what the bloc led by Robert Kocharyan will achieve, but it can be stated that the first major victory of Kocharyan and his team is already a reality: he has been acquitted.

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