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Human Rights Center continues monitoring of trials into 12 allegedly politically motivated cases

30.03.2020

 
Human Rights Center continues monitoring of the trials in the common courts of Georgia. The cases with allegedly politically motivated charges are under particular focus of the organization. The ongoing project “Monitoring Public Events” also aims to observe protest demonstrations besides the trial monitoring. 

After the emergency situation was announced in the country, the judges at the Tbilisi City Court, unfortunately, do not allow the independent observers, including HRC monitors, to attend the trials and monitor the ongoing hearings. Full restriction of the number of observers in trials closes the hearings that contradicts the principle of the open court that is one of the key components of the fair trial.

In accordance to the Article 7 of the President’s Decree N1 of March 21, 2020, “In accordance to the Criminal Procedural Code of Georgia, court hearings may be conducted remotely with the use of electronic communication tools. In similar situation, none of the parties in the trial can refuse conduct of the hearings remotely.”

Therefore, in the course of emergency situation and overall quarantine, for the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19, the judiciary system eventually shifts to remote working regime. HRC acknowledged the gravity of the current situation including the challenges faced by the judiciary system. Nevertheless, the practice of full or partial closure of the court proceedings, except concrete cases which are regulated under the law, contradicts the principle of the just state and rule of law; it undermines the right of an individual to have access to fair trial. 

HRC believes that holding the court hearings remotely in accordance to the President’s Decree does not mean to fully or partly close them for public. This regulation aims to save citizens from the spread of the COVID-19. At the same time, it does not exclude the possibility to conduct the hearings in accordance to the Constitution of Georgia and Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia. Open court is the only opportunity to enable the parties to answer the questions of the society and to enable the society to learn the truth about the case. 

In the emergency situation, it is good alternative to conduct the hearings into criminal cases remotely; however, unlimited access of the interested parties, including monitors, shall be ensured with the support of modern technical online sources (like livestreeming) on the court website or via specially created YOUTUBE channel. 

At this stage, HRC monitors monitor trials into 12 cases: 

1) Gigi Ugulava’s case – Supreme Court of Georgia found the former Tbilisi mayor and a leader of the European Georgia Gigi Ugulava guilty under the Article 182 Part 2 – “d” and Part 3 – “a” and “b” of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which applies to the unlawful appropriation or embezzlement of another person's property or property rights through using official position. HRC monitors also observe the trials into another criminal case against Gigi Ugulava, which was launched under the Article 194 of the CCG and applies to the legalization of illegal income (money laundering). The so-called airport incident case is also under the interest of HRC, which is not processed in the court yet. 

2-3) Two cases against Nikanor Melia – in one of the criminal cases, the former MP Nikanor Melia is accused of the violation of the Article 225 Part I and II of the CCG, which applies to organization and participation in group violence. This case is connected with the June 20-21, 2019 protest demonstration. At the same time, the Tbilisi Appellate Court is examining the criminal case against Nikanor Melia, in which he is accused of the violation of the Article 332 of the CCG together with the former Minister of Justice Zurab Adeishvili, which applies to the abuse of official powers. In the first instance of court Nikanor Melia was acquitted in the charge imposed under the Article 205 of the CCG - Concealment of property using fraudulent and/or sham transactions. 

4-5) Two cases against Irakli Okruashvili – Leader of the political movement Victorious Georgia Irakli Okruashvili is accused in two criminal cases. One of them concerns the June 20-21, 2019 events, where he is charged under the Article 225 – organization, management or participation in group violence. The second is about the violation of the Article 332 Part 3 “c” of the CCG – abuse of official power. 

6) Case of Giorgi Rurua – one of the founders of the TV-Company Main Channel and active participant of the June 20-21, 2019 protest demonstrations Giorgi Rurua is accused of the violation of the Article 236 Part 3 and 4 of the CCG - illegal purchase, storage, carrying, manufacturing, transportation, forwarding or sale of firearms. He is also charged under the Article 381 Part 1 of the CCG, which applies to the failure to execute or interference with the execution of a judgement or other court decisions. 

7) Case of Mamuka Khazaradze, Badri Japaridze and Avtandil Tsereteli – former chairman of the TBC Bank Supervisory Board Mamuka Khazaradze and his former deputy Badri Japaridze are charged under the Article 194 Part II – “a” and Part III – “c” of the CCG, which applies to the legalization of illegal income committed by a group accompanied by receipt of particularly large income. As for the father of the owner of the TV-Company Pirveli, he is charged in assisting the legalization of illegal income (25-194 Part II “a” and Part III – “c”).

8) Nika Gvaramia’s case – founder and director general of the Main Channel Nika Gvaramia is charged under the Article 220 of the CCG, which applies to abuse of managerial, representative or other special powers in an enterprise or other organisation against the lawful interests of this organization for acquiring benefits or advantage for oneself or another person, which has resulted in consideration damage.  

9) Case of Besik Tamliani, Zurab Budagashvili, Tsotne Soselia and Kakhaber Kupreishvili – Besik Tamliani, Zurab Budagashvili and Tsotne Soselia are charged under the Article 225 Part 2 of the CCG, which applies to the participation in group violence, which is accompanied by violence, raid, damage or destruction of another person’s property, use of arms, armed resistance to or assault on representatives of public authorities. Currently, Besik Tamliani is still in imprisonment though does not confess the crime. Other accused people were released under the plea agreement. They confessed the imposed charges during the trial and the prosecutor’s office signed plea-agreement with them. On March 23, the court changed the compulsory measure – pre-trial imprisonment into a bail of 4 000 GEL against Besik Tamliani. He left the penitentiary establishments. The Tbilisi City Court continues proceedings over the criminal case against Besik Tamliani. 

10) Case of Bezhan Lortkipanidze and Moris Machalikashvili – employee of the civil society organization Nekresi Bezhan Lortkipanidze and Moris Machalikashvili were charged under the Article 225 of the CCG – organization, leadership or participation in group violence. Moris Machalikashvili accepted the proposal of the prosecutor’s office on plea-agreement. Lortkipanidze does not confess the crime and bail was imposed on him as compulsory measure.

11) Koba Koshadze’s case – Koba Koshadze, driver of the leader of the political movement Victorious Georgia Irakli Okruashvili, is charged under the Article 236 of the CCG - illegal purchase, storage, carrying, manufacturing, transportation, forwarding or sale of firearms, ammunition, explosives or explosive devices. 

12) HRC also monitored the case of Giorgi Javakhishvili and Tornike Datashvili – the court found them guilty under the Article 225 Part II of the CCG – organization, leadership or participation in the group violence. This case was examined together with Irakli Okruashvili’s case but their case was separated and soon Javakhishvili and Datashvili were released. It is noteworthy that the accused people confessed the crime and then the prosecutor’s office signed plea-agreement with them.

The interim and final reports based on the findings of the HRC monitors will be prepared in the frame of the project. The interested parties will receive impartial information about the identified miscarriages from the reports.

Project “Monitoring Public Events” is implemented with the financial support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) from February 1 to December 31, 2020. 



Human Rights Center 

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