Zaruhi Mejlumyan

Unprecedented Court Decision: Soghomon Kocharyan, Serving Life Sentence, Released for Health Reasons

A court in Armenia today released Soghomon Kocharyan, serving a life sentence for the murder of an Iranian citizen in 1995, for health reasons.

Kocharyan will not have to serve the rest of his sentence.Today’s court ruling is the first time a lifer has been released for medical reasons.

Kocharyan, an Artsakh War vet who had been serving his 21st year behind bars, wasn’t in the courtroom today. Rather, he is bed ridden and being treated at Yerevan’s Grigor Lousavorich Medical Center.

While friends, family, war buddies and supporters filled the Kentron and Nork-Marash courtroom, Kocharyan’s mother was at her son’s bedside in the hospital.

Grisha Balasanyan, Kocharyan’s lawyer, presented his client’s petition addressed to the court asking that his motion to be freed be reviewed in his absence.

“I have been waiting for freedom for twenty years, thus I request that a decision be made the same day, October 22,” reads the petition.

Kocharyan was informed of his release by his mother, who said that her son was quite moved.

On October 8, an intra-departmental medical commission gave the green light for Kocharyan to be released since he suffers from a number of ailments; in particular myocardial ischemia.

In his address to the court, attorney Balasanyan asked that the reasons why his client was sentenced in the first place be overlooked for the moment, but he asked whether it was possible for Kocharyan to have received adequate medical treatment in time.

In 2014, Kocharyan petitioned Armenia’s Prosecutor General to reopen his case given recent revelations unearthed by Hetq in the autobiography written by the original prosecuting attorney regarding the intervention of Iran in the legal proceeding.

The Prosecutor General’s office argued that such information cannot be regarded as a basis to review Kocharyan’s case.

In his autobiography, state prosecutor Zhirayr Kharatyan, writes that when he found out about the Iranian meddling he decided to write an official note about the matter, express his opinion, and then resign.

This was the second time the Prosecutor General’s Office had rejected a petition to reopen the case.

After Hetq uncovered Kharatyan’s misgivings about the way the case was handled, Hetq chief editor Edik Baghdasaryan petitioned the Prosecutor General to admit the finding as a basis for reopening the case. This petition was rejected on the same argument.

Kocharyan’s daughter 18 year-old Suzy, whom he had only seen four times in his life, committed suicide last year, despondent over her father’s imprisonment and the failure of the judicial system to reopen the case.