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Hunting Season on Lawyers

10.12.2009
 Aleksi Bezhanishvili

Detention of lawyers has become a tendency in Georgia. After Natia Siradze and Kartlos Gharibashvili, now Besarion Cholokava was detained by police. According to the spread information, Cholokava is suspected in the crime envisaged under Article 180 Part II and III of the Criminal Code of Georgia. According to “Interpressnews”, Cholokava is accused in extorting money from citizens in exchange of legal assistance.

Hunting on lawyers started on December by detention of Natia Siradze. According to the Prosecutor’s Office Natia Siradze persuaded witness Jimsher Jabua to make false testimony at the trial in favor of her client – accused Kvikvinia who was blamed in robbery.

Natia Siradze was accused in the crime envisaged under Article 372 Part I of the Criminal Code of Georgia. If she is found guilty, the article she is accused for envisages imprisonment from 1 to 3 years.

Next day, on December 4, patrol police detained lawyer Kartlos Gharibashvili. His car was stopped in Queen Tamar Avenue in Tbilisi. Patrol policemen drew up a protocol on administrative offence and accused him in the crime envisaged under Article 173 of the Administrative Code of Georgia (resistance to patrol police).

Attorneys of Kartlos Gharibashvili think he was arbitrarily detained and claim the detainee had not resisted the policemen while detention. One of his attorneys Keti Bekauri connects the detention with political activities of Kartlos Gharibashvili and brought suit to the Appeal Court.

Detention of Natia Siradze was particularly resonant. Next day, Conservative Party gave a press-conference on the fact. Leader of the party Kakha Kukava said Siradze is an attorney of one of the accused in the mutiny on Mukhrovani military base Koba Otanadze. Otanadze and Koba Kobaladze do not plead guilty and deny to sign plea-bargain offered by the prosecutor’s office. Natia Siradze played particular role in this case as a principle and qualified lawyer. Because of her principal character she became a main problem for the prosecutor’s office. Kukava thinks law enforcement bodies used two-year-old fact of the oppression on the witness for her detention. According to him, with this detention the government tries to threat other attorneys who work on Mukhrovani mutiny.

“It has become very difficult and dangerous to protect political prisoners. We have informed international organizations, diplomatic corps in Georgia about the situation and asked them to start strict monitoring of the facts. We also petitioned to several governmental officials. We intend to cooperate with non-governmental organization to insert Natia Siradze on the list of political prisoners,” said Kakha Kukava.

Member of the executive council of the Bar Association Zaza Khatiashvili is attorney of Natia Siradze. According to his initiative, lawyers had to start hunger-strike in the office of Bar Association in turn to support their colleague and request release of Siradze. However, other lawyers did not support the initiative of Khatiashvili and nobody is on hunger-strike in the office of Bar Association. Nevertheless, the members of the Executive Council appealed to the court and requested to change imprisonment for freedom under their guardianship.

It must be noted, detention of lawyers coincided with the crisis in the Bar Association of Georgia which works with delays. The Association is waiting for the elections on December 20 where the chairperson, executive council, ethic and revision commissions shall be elected. At the moment, Gocha Svanidze is interim chairperson. The Human Rights Center asked him to comment on the detention of lawyers.

Gocha Svanidze, interim chairperson of the Bar Association of Georgia: “We have not been informed about the detention of Besarion Cholokava. I am very suspicious about these detentions and particularly those articles which were used for the detention of the lawyers. How can I believe that only lawyers are guilty and everything is in order at the Prosecutor’s Office? I think, first of all lawyers shall set up a group which will study the legality of these detentions and prepare competent conclusion on it. I will definitely suggest my colleagues to set up the group.

“Unfortunately, ethic commission does not work at the Bar Association because its working time expired. We are waiting for the elections on December 20 where we will elect chairperson, executive council, ethic and revision commissions of the association. The Prosecutor’s office takes advantage of our inner problems and detains lawyers. We are all working for the elections. A lot of issues shall be settled in order to carry out the elections properly.”

Apparently, it is very hard period in the history of Georgian advocacy. Short time ago, part of lawyers established independent professional union. The members of the union state the Bar Association does not work properly and they decided to set up separate union. However, advocacy is the profession regulated by the state and only Bar Association grants lawyer’s licenses. Establishment of any other separate professional union outside Bar Association is equal to non-governmental organization or Trade Union.
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