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Armenia court issues arrest warrant for ex-president

Armenia's former president Robert Kocharyan

An Armenian court on Friday granted prosecutors an arrest warrant for former president Robert Kocharyan on charges of "overthrowing constitutional order" by rigging presidential polls over a decade ago in favor of his hand-picked ally.

During a late-night session, a Yerevan court granted a motion by the Armenian special investigation service for the 63-year-old to be held in pre-trial detention, his lawyer Aram Orbelyan told journalists.

Kocharyan has denounced the charges as "false and politically motivated".

"I will go to prison and will fight to the end... I am confident that ultimately I will win because the criminal case is completely falsified," he told Yerkir Media television network earlier.

He could face up to 15 years behind bars if found guilty of tipping a 2008 vote in favor of his political ally Serzh Sarkisian, in what investigators said earlier amounted to a coup.

Supporters of the defeated opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrosyan came out to protest after he denounced the vote as fraudulent.

Tensions then erupted into violent clashes between riot police and Ter-Petrosyan's supporters, in which eight protesters and two officers were killed.

Pashinyan was arrested in 2009 for organizing the protests and sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released as part of an amnesty in 2011.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan arrives for the second day of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 12, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Sarkisian led the South Caucasus nation until April this year, when he was forced to resign because of mass protests against his rule.

Pashinyan -- who led the protests -- became Sarkisian's successor in May and launched a sweeping, anti-corruption crackdown on former elites.

A pro-Russian politician, Kocharyan served as Armenia's second post-Soviet president from 1998 to 2008.

His presidency saw the bloodiest event in Armenia's post-Soviet political history -- the terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament in 1999.

Opposition parties have accused Kocharyan of organizing the attack in which five gunmen killed his political foes, Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and parliament speaker Karen Demirchyan.

(Source: AFP)

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