Armenia’s top court ends criminal case against ex-president

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia’s high court ruled Friday that a criminal case against the nation’s former president over a deadly crackdown on protesters more than a decade ago must be dropped.

The Constitutional Court said the charges against former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan were based on a legal article that violated the main law.

Kocharyan, 66, who served as president in 1998-2008, has been accused of violating the constitutional order by sending police to disperse protesters in Yerevan in March 2008. Eight demonstrators and two police officers died in the clashes, and 250 people were injured.

Kocharyan has rejected the charges as a political vendetta by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was one of the organizers of the 2008 protest. Pashinyan, a former journalist, came to power in 2018 after leading massive demonstrations that ousted his predecessor.

The ruling follows a long cycle of Kocharyan being jailed and released over the past few years as part of criminal proceedings against him.

Friday’s court verdict was a blow to 45-year-old Pashinyan, who has faced opposition demands to step down over a humiliating defeat last year in an armed conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory within Azerbaijan that Armenia-backed separatists controlled for more than 25 years.

More than 6,000 people were killed in the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal in November that let Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas.

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