Protesters Force Cancellation Of Armenian Ex-President's Press Conference

YEREVAN -- Dozens of protesters have disrupted plans for a press conference by former Armenian President Robert Kocharian, a day after his release from a detention facility where he was awaiting trial on charges of "overthrowing Armenia's constitutional order."

Kocharian cancelled the August 14 event at the Erebuni Plaza business center in Yerevan after dozens of protesters entered the building and occupied the room where the press conference was to be held.

About 100 people also rallied outside the building in protest against the decision by the Armenian Court of Appeals to release Kocharian from pre-trial detention.

Ruben Sahakian, Kocharian's defense lawyer, said the court’s decision was based on Article 140 of the constitution. It states: "During the term of his or her powers and thereafter, the President of the Republic may not be prosecuted and subjected to liability for actions deriving from his or her status."

Kocharian. 63, was arrested in July on charges that he was involved in a 2008 post-election crackdown by authorities in which 10 people, including two police officers, were killed.

Kocharian denies the charges, calling them politically motivated.

Earlier on August 14, protesters rallied in front of the Prosecutor-General's Office to demand that Kocharian be rearrested. The demonstrators included relatives of those killed during the 2008 crackdown.

Kocharian's arrest in July came as the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian steps up legal action against officials linked to the previous government.

The case against Kocharian dates back to late February and early March 2008 following a disputed election to determine Kocharian's successor.

Kocharian's ally, Serzh Sarkisian, was declared the winner. That angered the opposition and set off 10 days of nonstop protests that culminated in the deadly crackdown.

Pashinian's administration has also brought cases against several other former officials and close relatives of Sarkisian’s family.

Pashinian, an anticorruption campaigner, was elected prime minister in May after weeks of mass protests against corruption and cronyism.