Human Rights Center monitors the criminal cases that are allegedly politically motivated in the general courts of Georgia within the frames of the project Legal Aid and Human Rights Monitoring. The Project of monitoring the court proceedings, which was commenced in 2020 resumed in 2021 from February 1, 2021, 1 to December 30, 2021.
From February 1, 2020 to November 30, 2021 the Human Rights Center’s court monitors monitored court proceedings of 42 criminal and administrative cases. In 2021, the monitors attended 140 court hearings of 42 cases during 11 months.
The court finished examination of one part of the 42 cases; second part is still examined in the first instance court and some of them are heard in the Tbilisi Appellate Court.
The list of the cases examined and monitored in the common courts:
1. The Case of Mamuka Khazaradze, Badri Japaridze and Avtandil Tsereteli. The former Chair of the Supervisory Council of TBC Bank, Mamuka Khazaradze, and his deputy, Badri Japaridze (at the time being the leaders of the political organization Lelo for Georgia and members of the Georgian Parliament) are charged under article 194(2)(a) and (3)(c) of the Criminal Code envisaging the legalization of illicit income in large amounts carried out by an organized group. While the charges brought against the father of the owner of TV company TV Pirveli, Avtandil Tsereteli, imply the assistance in the legalization of illicit income (article 25 and article 194(2)(a)(3)(c) of the Criminal Code). The criminal case is on the stage of hearing on the merits in Tbilisi City Court. The presiding judge is Giorgi Ebanoidze within the same court. At this stage of the hearing, some pieces of evidence are being examined and witnesses are interrogated.
2. The case of an attack on journalist Vakhtang Sanaia. On February 25, 2021, journalist Vakhtang Sanaia was attacked by three drunk persons. The journalist was with his family members, including an infant child, and was trying to mount a rise in a road with his vehicle assisted by the representatives of the rescue guard in the efforts. According to Sanaia, the defendants physically assaulted him, threatened him, and attacked his family members. On the same day, the Ministry of Interior arrested three people on charges of group violence. According to the information by the Ministry of Interior, the accused persons being drunk used physical violence against Vakhtang Sanaia preliminary exchanging with him some verbal remarks. The three detainees were charged under Article 156(2)(a), Article 151(1), and Article 126(1)(b)(c) of the Criminal Code of Georgia. The case was heard on the merits by the City Court, the presiding judge is Giorgi Keratishvili.
The court sentenced all three defendants to a minimum sentence of 6 months imprisonment, which expired on August 25 i.e. on the day of rendering the judgment.
3. The case of Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilychova (the case of cartographers). HRC monitors are observing the criminal cases ongoing against Iveri Melashvili, the former director of the Bordering Relations Service of the Department for Neighboring Countries within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and against, Natalia Ilychova, former chief inspector of the Land Border Defense Department of the Border Police under the Ministry of Interior. They are charged under Article 308.1 of the Criminal Code envisaging the action against Georgia aimed at transferring the entire territory or part of Georgia to a foreign country and/or separating part of the territory from the territory of Georgia. On January 28, 2021, following the petition by the prosecution, presiding judge Lela Kalichenko changed the measure of restraint applied against the defendants with remand on bail of GEL20 000 each. Further, the court granted the motion of the prosecution to dismiss Iveri Melashvili from his job. The case was assigned to judge Nino Natchkebia for hearing on the merits. At the current stage of the hearings, the evidence of the prosecution is being examined.
Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilychova were arrested on October 7, 2020, one month before the parliamentary elections. On January 28, 2021, in parallel with the hearing, representatives of the opposition and the civil sector gathered in the yard of Tbilisi City Court in support of Melashvili and Ilychova and reiterated that they had been detained illegally. At the same time, in order to collect the amount of the bail, the civil movement Shame spread information on the social network, and as a result within a couple of hours the citizens of the campaign to assist the release of the accused managed to collect the full amount of the bail GEL 40,000.
9. Giorgi Mumladze Case: Giorgi Mumladze, a civil activist, is accused of committing an illegal act under Article 353(1) of the Criminal Code of Georgia implying a resistance towards a police officer, a special penitentiary officer, or other government officials with an aim to interfere in his/her activities of maintaining public order, to cease or alter his/her activities, further to coerce an officer to a manifestly unlawful act committed with violence or threat of violence. The case is still pending with Tbilisi City Court. From February 2021 to November 2021, 4 court hearings were held on the case. At the pre-trial hearing, the court rejected the motion of the defense to dismiss the criminal case.
- The case of Malkhaz Machalikashvili: On July 6, 2021, Malkhaz Machalikashvili was arrested by the police during a rally on Rustaveli Avenue. According to the defense counsel, Machalikashvili was present at the protest rally For Freedom and was expressing his protest. Violent groups active on the other side recognized Malkhaz Machalikashvili, verbally abused him, and physically assaulted him as the group was trying to cross the fence and create threats for Machalikashvili. Malkhaz Machalikashvili was taken away from the scene by the police and as it turned out he was consequently arrested for disobeying the order of the police and for violating the public order, the offense –under Articles 166 and 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses. On July 7, the defense filed a motion with the court to suspend the hearing of the case on the merits, so the defense could study the case files and obtain additional evidence. On the same day, Machalikashvili was released from the courtroom as 48-hour term of the administrative detention had expired. The case is being heard by Koba Chagunava, a judge of the Administrative Cases Panel of Tbilisi City Court. In accordance with the decision of the Tbilisi City Court, the case was dismissed in connection with Article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, while Machalikashvili was found guilty under Article 166(1) and Article 174(4) of the same Code and was fined with GEL 500.
- The case of Beka Papashvili, Zurab Berdzenishvili, Paata Kharatishvili, and Tite Gedenidze: HRC monitored the court proceedings against four civil activists: Beka Papashvili, Zurab Berdzenishvili, Paata Kharatishvili, and Tite Gedenidze, arrested on June 3, 2021, in front of the premises of the General Prosecutor's Office where a protest rally was taking place in connection with the events in Ninotsminda Children's Boarding School. The activists were detained under Article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of Georgia envisaging disobedience to a lawful order of the law enforcement officer. The case was heard by Tbilisi City Court, the presiding judge is Lela Tsagareishvili. On August 2, 2021 the resolution part of the judgment was announced. Administrative proceedings against Beka Papashvili under the Article 173.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences was dropped because of absence of administrative incident. Tite Gedenidze, Paata Kharatishvili and Zurab Berdzenishvili were found guilty under the Article 173.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences and were fined with 2000 GEL.
- The Case of Akaki Khuskivadze and Akaki Kobaladze. HRC was monitoring the court hearings of the criminal case ongoing against Akaki Khuskivadze and Akaki Kobaladze. The accused are charged with committing the criminal acts under Article 339.1, Article 150.2(b), and Article 151.2(a) of the Criminal Code of Georgia envisaging the following offense: directly offering to official money for his/her benefit, so that he/she take certain action during the exercise of his/her official rights and duties for the benefit of the bribe-giver, further a threat of damaging health, when the person threatened began to have a reasonable sensation of fear that the threat will be carried out, the act committed by a group of persons, i.e. coercing him/her mind to perform an action abstaining from the performance of which is his/her right, the act committed by a group of persons. Moreover, Akaki Kobaladze is accused of illegal purchase and storage of ammunition, the offense provided for by article 236(3) of the Criminal Code of Georgia. On December 10, 2020, Tbilisi City Court remanded the detainees on bail. They had to pay GEL 10,000 in bail. Judge Giorgi Keratishvili within Tbilisi City Court is hearing the case on the merits.
- The Case of Civil Activists: HRC monitored the trial of 7 activists (Irakli Pavlenishvili, Givi Tsintsadze, Parnavaz Grigolia, Vano Magalashvili, Nikoloz Kvitatiani, Nikoloz Narsia, and Davit Digmelashvili) arrested during the protest rally of January 16, 2021. The activists were detained under Articles 166 and 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of Georgia envisaging petty hooliganism and disobedience to a lawful order of a law enforcement officer. The court terminated the administrative proceedings in the part of Article 166 while holding the activists as offenders in the part of Article 173 and imposed on each of them a fine of GEL 1,200. The case was heard by Judge Natia Merabishvili.
- The case of Bezhan Lortkipanidze: Bezhan Lortkipanidze, an employee of the public organization Nakresi, was charged under Article 225(2) of the Criminal Code envisaging the management, organization, and participation in group violence. Bezhan Lortkipanidze does not plead guilty. The charges are related to the events of June 20-21, 2019. Field biologist and wildlife researcher Bezhan Lortkipanidze was arrested on June 20, 2019. He was remanded in custody for 2 months. At the time being, the accused has been remanded on bail of GEL 5,000 as a measure of restraint. Judge Davit Mgeliashvili within Tbilisi City Court is hearing the case on the merits.
Bezhan Lortkipanidze was amnestied on September 7, 2021. More precisely, the Parliament of Georgia passed the Amnesty Law drafted by the ruling party – Georgian Dream in relation with the June 20-21 events. In accordance with the law, all individuals convicted or conditionally convicted for the crimes committed in relation with the June 20-21, 2019 events, were discharged of the criminal liability, who have not rejected the amnesty. The amnestied person will be discharged of criminal liability too.
- The Case of Besik Tamliani, Zurab Budaghashvili, Tsotne Soselia, and Kakhaber Kupreishvili. Besik Tamliani, Zurab Budaghashvili, Tsotne Soselia, and Kakhaber Kupreishvili were charged under Article 225(2) of the Criminal Code of Georgia envisaging the participation in group violence 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. In the given case a plea agreement was concluded between the Prosecutor’s Office and the accused persons: Zurab Budaghashvili, Tsotne Soselia, and Kakhaber Kupreishvili. On March 23, 2020, the measure of restraint used against Besik Tamliani was changed with remand on bail of GEL 4,000. He left the prison. In the 2020 parliamentary elections, Besik Tamliani was a candidate for MP of the Parliament of Georgia from the electoral list of the opposition bloc UNM - Strength in Unity. The criminal case against Besik Tamliani is still pending in Tbilisi City Court. He has rejected the amnesty under the September 7, 2021 Law on Amnesty, which was passed by the Parliament of Georgia in connection with the June 20-21, 2019 events and continues defense of his rights in the court. The criminal case is being heard by judge Aleksandre Iashvili.
- The Case of Nikanor Melia: Former MP Nikanor Melia has been charged under Article 225(1) (2) of the Criminal Code of Georgia envisaging the organization of and participation in group violence. The current case pending with Tbilisi City Court is connected with the events of June 20-21, 2019. On February 17, 2021, the court granted in full the motion of the Prosecutor General of Georgia, Irakli Shotadze, to replace the measure of restraint used against the accused with remand on bail. On May 10, 2021, the court also granted the motion of the prosecution to change the measure of restraint applied against the accused to a lighter one. In particular, remand in custody as a measure of restraint applied against Nikanor Melia was changed to remand on bail of GEL 40,000. The bail was allocated by the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) under an agreement between the opposition and the government. The hearing on the merits of the criminal case is going on in Tbilisi City Court, the presiding judge is Nino Chakhnashvili.
From February to November 30, 2021, HRC observed twenty hearings of the case against Nikanor Melia in the Tbilisi City Court. Political statements were made during almost all court hearings. The defense side paid particular attention to the political motives of the charge. Currently, the defendant is expelled from the courtroom.
HRC has reviewed the criminal case ongoing against Nikanor Melia in the document Legal Analysis of the Criminal Cases connected with the Events of June 20-21, 2019.
- The case of Nikanor Melia and Zurab Adeishvili. The proceedings are ongoing at the Tbilisi Court of Appeals. Nikanor Melia together with the former Minister of Justice Zurab Adeishvili is charged with the offense under Article 332 of the Criminal Code envisaging the abuse of official power. Admittedly, Nikanor Melia was found innocent at the court of the first instance in the charges under Article 2051 of the Criminal Code envisaging the concealment of property by means of fraudulent or sham transactions. Judge Vepkhia Lomidze is reviewing the case within the Court of Appeals.
- The Case of Mikheil Saakashvili and Teimuraz Janashia: Former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili and former Head of Special State Protection Service, Defense Teimuraz Janashia have been charged under Article 182(b) of the Criminal Code envisaging misappropriation of budgetary funds in large amounts (GEL 8,837,461). According to the Prosecutor's Office, in accordance with the existing agreement between Mikheil Saakashvili and Teimuraz Janashia and the instructions issued by the President, from September 2009 to February 2013, the state funds in the amount of GEL 8,837,461 were embezzled in secret for various services rendered to the President of Georgia and to other individuals in Georgia and abroad. The case is being heard at Tbilisi City Court, the presiding judge is Badri Kochlamazashvili.
During the monitoring, HRC released an analytical document: the assessment of the right to be tried within a reasonable time in the criminal cases ongoing against Mikheil Saakashvili.
- The Case of Mikheil Todua (Mikhailo): On December 25, 2013, under the judgment rendered by Tbilisi City Court, Mikheil Todua was sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment. He was convicted of a drug offense, namely purchasing, storing, and consuming club drugs. On October 11, 2019, the convict was commuted to house arrest for 2 years and 11 months. He was instructed to be at the place of residence from 21:00 to 08:00. On November 11, 2020, Tbilisi City Court heard a motion by the Tbilisi Probation Bureau to lift the house arrest imposed against Mikheil Todua and to apply imprisonment against Mikheil Todua on the grounds that he had violated the terms of house arrest and performed at a party organized by Girchi on October 17 at 22:00. Following the judgment delivered by the judge, the submission from the Probation Bureau regarding the use of imprisonment as a punishment was rejected. The Probation Bureau approached the court with an alternative request at the hearing, which was granted by the judge, and Mikheil Todua was ordered to stay home from 19:00 to 08:00, instead of 21:00-08:00.
- Case of Nodar Rukhadze. HRC observed the court hearing of the administrative case of Nodar Rukhadze, an activist of the movement Shame arrested on February 23. The law enforcement officers detained him under Article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of Georgia. The judge held Nodar Rukhadze as an offender and imposed on him a fine of GEL 2,000. The case was not appealed to a higher court.
- The Case of Giorgi Ugulava (Airport Case). In accordance with the indictment by the Prosecutor's Office from December 11, 2019, Giorgi Ugulava is charged with committing the offense under Article 126(1) of the Criminal Code of Georgia. According to the version of the prosecution, Giorgi Ugulava inflicted bodily harm to B.G. The defense on the contrary states that B.G. in a provocative manner assaulted Giorgi Ugulava and Giorgi Gabashvili, the leaders of European Georgia. About a year later, on June 3, 2021, Tbilisi City Court with presiding judge Badri Kochlamazashvili began a hearing on the merits of the case. Giorgi Ugulava clarified that he refuses the amnesty and will fight to the end to prove the truth through the court because the attack on him at the airport was organized by the State Security Service on behalf of Bidzina Ivanishvili. At the hearings, the victims, witnesses and experts are interrogated.
- The Case of Giorgi Ugulava (Tbilisi Development Fund Case). The Supreme Court of Georgia found Giorgi Ugulava the former Mayor of Tbilisi and one of the leaders of the Party European Georgia guilty of committing the offense provided for by articles 182(2)(d) and (3)(a)(b) of the Criminal Code of Georgia envisaging the unlawful appropriation or embezzlement of another person’s property or property rights by using official position. By the Judgment of the Supreme Court from February 10, 2020, Giorgi Ugulava was sentenced to imprisonment with a term of 3 years, 2 months, and 8 days. He was released from prison based on the Act of Pardon of the President of Georgia from May 15, 2020. The case of Giorgi Ugulava was heard in the Supreme Court under the chairmanship of former Prosecutor General, Shalva Tadumadze.
- The Case Giorgi Ugulava and Aleksandre Gogokhia. The criminal case launched against Giorgi Ugulava the former Mayor of Tbilisi is on the stage of hearing on the merits in Tbilisi City Court. The Prosecutor’s Office charged the accused persons with committing the offense under Article 194 of the Criminal Code envisaging the legalization of illicit income (money laundering). Moreover, the state prosecution on the same case charged Ugulava with abuse of official power on the episode of City Park and with the organization of group action and with coercion on the episode of Marneuli. The case will be heard by judge Valerian Bugianashvili of Tbilisi City Court. No court hearings were held on the case during the reporting period.
During the monitoring, Human Rights Center published a document: Legal Analysis of the Criminal Cases ongoing against Giorgi Ugulava.
- The Case of Irakli Okruashvili and Zurab Adeishvilie. the case of Buta Robakidze. Irakli Okruashvili and Zurab Adeishvili are charged under article 332(3)(c) of the Criminal Code envisaging the abuse of power by a state political official. The case concerns the incident that took place near Didube Pantheon in Tbilisi on November 24, 2004, when the police patrol stopped a car of BMW brand with a driver and five passengers in the car. In the process of seizing and personal examination of the persons, one of the patrol officers, Grigol Basheleishvili accidentally triggered the weapon and shot Amiran (Buta) Robakidze in the left armpit heavily wounding him causing his death at the scene. According to the prosecution decision, the information on the same night was reported to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Irakli Okruashvili, who instructed the high officials arriving at the scene that they had “to save the reputation of the patrol police” and to give the incident the appearance of an armed assault on the police officers. Further, according to the prosecution decision, following the instructions of the then Prosecutor General of Georgia, Zurab Adeishvili, and the investigation was conducted in legal terms in the wrong direction manifested in the affirmation of falsified in procedural terms and reaffirming the versions by high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Interior.
The case hearings were resumed on June 9, 2021, by judge Lasha Chkhikvadze after the case was suspended for several months. The hearings were resumed with examinations of the evidence submitted by the prosecution. In the reporting period, only 2 hearings were held of the case.
On November 19, 2019, the new charge (so-called Amiran (Buta) Robakidze’s case) was brought against Irakli Okruashvili in the penitentiary estalishment. The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia accused him of the abuse of power with regard to the crime commited in 2004 while he was the Minister of Interior of Georgia. The charges were brought against him several days before the 15-years term of remoteness of the crime expired. The state prosecution relied on the edition of the Criminal Code of Georgia which worsened the state of the defendant most of all editions, which were in force since November 11, 2004.
- The Case of Irakli Okruashvili. The Leader of the party Victorious Georgia, Irakli Okruashvili was accused under article 225 of the Criminal Code related to the events of June 20-21, 2019 envisaging the organization of group violence and participation in the violence. Following the judgment from April 13, 2000, Okruashvili was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment as he was charged with participation in the offense. Based on the Act or Pardon of the President, like Giorgi Ugulava, Okruashvili also left the penitentiary institution on May 15, 2020. Notwithstanding the pardon, Okruashvili appealed the judgment before Tbilisi Court of Appeals, and the hearings of the case have not begun yet. In the Court of Appeals, Judge Vepkhvia Lomidze will hear the case.
During the monitoring, HRC published an analytical document: Legal Assessments of the Criminal Cases ongoing against Irakli Okruashvili.
- Case of Koba Koshadze – Koba Koshadze, a bodyguard of Irakli Okruashvili, leader of the political party for Victorious Georgia, was accused of the commission of the crime punishable under the Article 236 of the Criminal Code of Georgia – illegal purchase-possession-carriage of firearms. After the prosecutor’s office solicited the court to change the measure of restraint, the judge at the Tbilisi City Court changed the imprisonment into 5 000 GEL bail for Koba Koshadze and the defendant was freed from the courtroom. The Tbilisi City Court has not started trials on merits on this case for more than one year already.
Human Rights Center analyzed the criminal case against Koba Koshadze in the document - Legal Assessments of the Criminal Cases ongoing against Irakli Okruashvili. Multiple legal violations are revealed in this case.
- The Case of citizens detained near the premises of Isani District Election Commission. HRC observed the administrative legal proceedings of 7 persons detained on November 4, 2020, at a protest rally in front of the premises of Isani District Election Commission under articles 166 and 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses. According to the decision by the judge, the proceedings against only one of the 7 detainees were terminated. Only 3 persons were found to have committed offenses under article 173 of the Code, and 3 for both: articles 166 and 173 of the Code. One of them was subject to a sanction of 5 days of administrative detention, and the other 5 were subject to 3 days of detention.
- The Case of Lasha Chkhartishvili: On June 20, 2020, Tbilisi City Court found one of the leaders of the Labor Party, Lasha Chkhartishvili as an administrative offender under article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses and imposed on him a fine in the amount of GEL 3,500. Judge Manuchar Tsatsua rendered the judgment in three court sessions. Chkhartishvili appealed the judgment to Tbilisi Court of Appeals, but the admission of the appeal was rejected.
- The Case of Giorgi Javakhishvili and Tornike Datashvili. The court found Giorgi Javakhishvili and Tornike Datashvili guilty under article 225(2) of the Criminal Code envisaging the leadership, organization of group violence, and participation in group violence. The above case was heard in the conjunction with the case of Irakli Okruashvili related to the events of June 20-21, 2019, however, the case was split into separate proceedings and after the plea agreements were reached with the accused persons: Javakhishvili and Datashvili, they were released shortly afterward.
- The court of first instance is hearing the criminal case launched against Mikheil Saakashvili, Ivane Merabishvili, Zurab Adeishvili, Davit Kezerashvili, and Gigi Ugulava with written evidence of the prosecution being examined. The case concerns the dispersal of the protesters en masse on November 7, 2007, invading TV Company Imedi and “seizing” the TV Company.
On November 10, 2021, the court annulled the imprisonment as the measure of restraint against Mikheil Saakashvili. The Court decided it was necessary to use the imprisonment as the restraint measure. However, as Mikheil Saakashvili is already convicted on two other criminal cases and consequently, he is sentenced to 6-year imprisonment, the annulled measure of restraint on November 7 case does not change the factual circumstances as he stays in the penitentiary establishment.
The defense side did not attend the revision of the measure of restraint – the lawyers left the courtroom in protest as the penitentiary service and the court, through the violation of the national and international laws, did not ensure presence of the defendant Mikheil Saakashvili at the court hearing.
On this case, besides Mikheil Saakashvili, charges are brought against that time high officials: Ivane Merabishvili, Zurab Adeishvili, Davit Kezerashvili, and Gigi Ugulava. Due to the complexity of the case, the case is heard by a panel of judges in Tbilisi City Court with presiding judge Nino Eleishvili.
- The Case of Giorgi Rurua: one of the founders and shareholders of TV company Main Channel (Mtavari Arkhi), and one of the organizers of the protest demonstrations of June 20- 21, 2019, is charged under Article 236(3)(4) of the Criminal Code (illegal purchase, storage, and carriage of firearms); he was also charged under Article 381(1) of the Criminal Code envisaging the failure to execute a court decision or interference with the execution of a court decision. On July 30, 2020, the judge of the criminal panel of Tbilisi City Court, Valerian Bugianishvili rendered a judgment of conviction against Giorgi Rurua sentencing him to 4 years of imprisonment. The court found Giorgi Rurua guilty of both charges. Following a pardon act by the President of Georgia, on April 27, 2021, the convict was released from the penitentiary facility. The President made the decision after the Agreement of April 19, 2021 (Charles Michel Document) was signed by the opposition parties, according to which a legal mechanism of release should have been applied to Giorgi Rurua. Prior to the Agreement, on March 31, 2021, the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, stated that she would not pardon Giorgi Rurua, citing the fact that "the public knew better than herself why she would not make the decision.”
Further, the judgment rendered by the first instance of the court has been appealed by the defense with Tbilisi Court of Appeals.
During the monitoring, Human Rights Center published an analytical document: The Criminal Case of Giorgi Rurua: Legal Analysis.
- The Case of Nika Gvaramia - The founder of a TV Company Mtavari Arkhi and the Director-General of the same TV company, Nika Gvaramia is charged under article 220 of the Criminal Code envisaging the abuse of managerial, representative, or other special powers in an enterprise or other organization against the lawful interests of this organization for acquiring benefits or advantage for oneself or another person, which has resulted in considerable damage. The case is being heard at Tbilisi City Court with evidence of prosecution being examined.
During the monitoring, HRC published an analytical document: Legal Assessments of the Criminal Case ongoing against Nika Gvaramia.
- The administrative case of Aleksi Machavariani, Nodar Rukhadze, and Giorgi Mzhavanadze: Aleksi Machavariani was detained by the police for an offense under Article 173(1) of the Code of Administrative Offenses, envisaging disobedience to a lawful order or request of a law enforcement officer, or committing any other wrongful action against the officer.
Nodar Rukhadze and Giorgi Mzhavanadze were detained by the police for the offense under Article 166(1) of the Code of Administrative Offenses (petty hooliganism: cursing in public places, chasing on citizens in an assaulting manner, and other such acts that violate public order) and also for the offense under Article 173(1) of the Code of Administrative Offenses, envisaging disobedience to a lawful order or request of an officer of a law enforcement body, or committing other wrongful actions against the officer.
Both cases were joined into one case during the hearing in the court of first instance, where all three detainees were found guilty of committing an offense under the relevant articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses of Georgia. Aleksi Machavariani was fined with GEL 1,000, Nodar Rukhadze with GEL 1,500, and Giorgi Mzhavanadze was sanctioned with 3 days of administrative detention. The judgment was appealed in appellate court.
29-30-31. The case of Levan Imerlishvili, Giorgi Esiashvili, and Mindia Ambardnishvili (the case of former officers of riot police): the accused are charged under article 333(3)(b) of the Criminal Code of Georgia envisaging “the acts in excess of the official powers by an official or a person equal thereto resulting in the substantial violation of the rights of natural or legal persons, or of the lawful interests of the public or the State.”
Former riot police officers - Levan Imerlishvili, Giorgi Esiashvili, and Mindia Ambardnishvili were arrested in summer 2019. For some time the accused were remanded in custody. At the moment, they are remanded on bail of GEL 10,000 (ten thousand). The reason for changing the measure of restraint for Levan Imerlishvili was the deterioration of the health condition of the accused; the Court agreed with the opinion and granted the motion by the defense counsel.
During the HRC monitoring, no court hearings were held in the ongoing cases against Levan Imerlishvili and Mindia Ambardnishvili. The hearing of Levan Imerlishvili's case was scheduled several times, however, it was postponed on every occasion.
As to Giorgi Esiashvili, during the monitoring, 4 court hearings were held. The prosecution witnesses were interrogated, among them were the experts of the Samkharauli National Bureau of Forensic Expertise.
On March 18, 2021, following the petition from the defense the statement concerning the reconciliation of the victims with the accused (there are two victims in the present case) and the document of full compensation of the damage by the accused was included in the criminal case files under consideration. According to the statement, the victims admit that they have no claim in this case and welcome reaching a plea agreement with the accused.
On April 22, 2021, Tbilisi City Court granted the motion of the defense on the revocation of the additional measures applied against the accused Giorgi Esiashvili. As the additional measure, the following was used: an obligation to inform the investigating authority, and without the consent of the latter not to leave the residence, and to appear to the investigating authority once a week.
Giorgi Esiashvili fully agrees with the allegations put against him. According to the media, Levan Imerlishvili also pleads guilty, while Mindia Ambardnishvili's lawyer reports that his client has not acted ultra vires and needs no amnesty, as he will be acquitted in this case.
- The case of defendants arrested on the counter-demonstration on July 5, 2021 – According to the statement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, several protesters of the counter-demonstration were arrested under the charges of the crimes committed against the public, persecution of journalists, and interfering with journalistic activities at the counter-demonstration against the March of Dignity announced by Tbilisi Pride on July 5-6, 2021 in Tbilisi. HRC is monitoring the trial of the defendants Mukhran Dadvani, IRakli Tsignadze, Nikoloz Guledani, Bakar Maisuradze, Tornike Gabliani, Vano Burduli and Davit Kochiashvili. The cases against all defendants are unified and they are examined by the Judge Besik Bugianiashvili at the Tbilisi City Court. The state prosecution accuses them of committing an illegal act under the Article 225 Part 2, Article 156 Part 2 – “a” and “b”, and Article 154 Part 2 of the Criminal Code of Georgia.
33-34-35. Cases of administrative offences of Tato Cherkezishvili, Giorgi Gagnidze and Ioseb Tabatadze – Judge Koba Chagunava at the Administrative Cases Panel of the Tbilisi City Court examined the administrative offence cases of Cherkezishvili, Gagnidze and Tabatadze separately. In accordance with the report, which was presented at the court hearing, on July 6, 2021 two protest demonstrations were held on the Rustaveli Avenue. The police made cordon between the two protests to protect the protesters from the aggression of the participants of counter-demonstration. Reportedly, the participants of the counter-demonstration were aggressive. At the same time, they tried to break the cordon of the police by force to attack the protesters. They were throwing eggs and bottles at them. According to the testimonies of the police officers, the offenders did not obey their lawful demands and verbally insulted them. The judge found all three defendants guilty and fined them with 2 500 GEL under the administrative law; one of the defendants was fined with 2 200 GEL.
HRC monitored the court hearings of the cases of the former riot police officers – Levan Imerlishvili, Giorgi Esiashvili and Mindia Ambardnishvili; the organization also observed the hearings of the cases of the participants of homophobic counter-demonstration to evaluate the approach of the prosecutor’s office and the judiciary authority towards these cases; to compare how the right to fair trial will be respected with regard to the mentioned allegedly politically motivated cases; also, to legally analyze the decisions of the court on those cases, where the victims are journalists and civil activists.
At the court hearings on the criminal cases against the participants of the homophobic counter-demonstration held until November 30, 2021, the parties made only introductory speeches. The defendants do not plead guilty in any of the imposed accusations and claim they are innocent.
- Case of Mikheil Saakashvili, illegal crossing of the state border – the prosecutor’s office brought new charge against the third president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili on illegal crossing of the state border of Georgia, punishable under the Article 344 Part 1 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. In accordance with the prosecutor’s office, on September 28, at around 23:00, a vessel Vilnius, having departed from the Port of Chornomorsk, Ukraine, entered Poti Port. On September 29, at 01:04, a SCANIA semi-trailer truck loaded with milk products owned by IKA TRANS LLC was unloaded from the said vessel. At first, the vehicle stopped on the bridge, after which Elguja Tsomaia, the driver, parked it at a parking lot before clearing the customs. After passing several dozen meters, he stopped the truck on Poti Port premises and went to the back door of the trailer. Mikheil Saakashvili got out of the trailer and got into the cabin of the truck from the right side. By this act, Mikheil Saakashvili illegally crossed the state border of Georgia, by bypassing the customs control with Elguja Tsomaia’s aid. The Tbilisi City Court examines the case of Mikheil Saakashvili.
- Case of Davit Nebieridze, Kakhaber Kvaratskhelia, Boris Kurua and Irakli Dzidziguri. On November 10, 2021, the law enforcement officers arrested the participants of the protest demonstration in front of the State Security Service for petty hooliganism and disobedience to the lawful request of the police officers. The arrest reports read that the detainees were cursing the police officers and hindered the transport movement as they were standing on the road. Judge Lela Tsagareishvili found all 4 detainees guilty and relied only on the testimonies and arrest reports of the patrol inspector when passing the verdict. Irakli Dzidziguri was fined with 2 000 GEL and the other three were sentenced to 1, 4 and 5 day administration detention.
- Case of Elene Khoshtaria. On July 11, 2021, on the day when the cameraman of the TV Company TV Pirveli Lekso Lashkarava deceased, a protest demonstration was held in Tbilisi. The leader of the political party Droa Elene Khoshtaria flashed the red paint over the wall of the premises of the Government Administration. Despite the warning from police officers, Khoshtaria did not obey them and due to petty hooliganism and insulting a police officer, a report of administrative offense was drawn up against her. Elene Khoshtaria did not appear at any hearing scheduled at the Tbilisi City Court. At the stage of the evidence examination, the court examined the video footage, which showed a struggle of Khoshtaria with the police officers and her flashing the paint over the wall, as well as her attempts to break the cordon. According to the representative of the administrative body, the brought evidence cumulatively match each other, due to which they requested the court to hold Khoshtaria as an administrative offender. Judge Koba Chagunava at the Administrative Case Panel of the Tbilisi City Court found Elene Khoshtaria guilty and fined her with 2 200 GEL.
- Case of Zurab and Shalva Tsotsorias, Elguja Tsomaia and Giorgi Narimanidze. These persons were arrested under the charge of concealment of the crime of Mikheil Saakashvili’s entry to Georgia. They are charged under the Article 375 Part 2 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which applies to the concealment of a grave crime without preliminary agreement and is punishable by the imprisonment with term from 1 up to 4 years.
On October 4, 2021 Judge Jemal Kopaliani at the Tbilisi City Court granted the motion of the prosecutor’s office and left Elguja Tsomaia in custody. Law enforcement officers arrested Elguja Tsomaia on October 1 for giving shelter to the wanted Saakashvili in his flat. According to the investigation, Elguja Tsomaia was informed that citizen of Ukraine Mikheil Saakashvili was wanted in Georgia for the commission of grave crime. “Nevertheless, on September 30, 2021 he gave his apartment located in Tbilisi to Saakashvili to hide and live in.”
The investigation claims that on September 29, 2021, having illegally crossed the border, Mikheil Saakashvili was transported by the personal car of Zurab and Shalva Tsotsorias, who took him to a village in Samegrelo region. The judge Giorgi Gelashvili at the Tbilisi City Court, on October 5, 2021, based on the solicitation of the prosecutor’s office, imposed the pre-trial imprisonment on Tsotsorias, the father and the son, as a measure of restraint.
Giorgi Narimanidze, a driver of the trailer, the fourth defendant in the case of the third president, does not plead guilty. The investigation claims Giorgi Narimanidze was in the truck, which took Mikheil Saakashvili from Abasha to Tbilisi; he knew the rout of the third president entering the country and covered this information. The investigation is ongoing under the Article 375 Part 2 of the Criminal Code of Georgia that is concealment of the grave crime without preliminary agreement. Initially, the cases of the mentioned defendants were examined separately but later, based on the prosecutor’s resolution, the cases were unified.
- Case of Giorgi Tabagari – LGBT activist and head of the Tbilisi Pride Giorgi Tabagari stated that Old Tbilisi police department started administrative proceedings against him. The case was related with the episode of July 5, 2021 when violent homophobic groups assaulted journalists and citizens in Tbilisi streets and police asked Tabagari to come to their raided office. The police officer stated that in response Tabagari verbally insulted him. The proceedings started against Giorgi Tabagari on verbal assault of the police officer that is punishable under the Article 173 Part 1 of the Code of Administrative Offences of Georgia. The court examined all evidence in the case files and on October 22, 2021 the judge at the Administrative Case Panel of the Tbilisi City Court found Giorgi Tabagari guilty in the episode of July 5, 2021, which referred to the verbal assault of the police. The judge gave verbal reprimand to Tabagari.
- Case of Alika Kuprava was examined by Judge Tsitsino Rokhvadze of the Administrative Case Panel at the Tbilisi City Court. According to the clarifications of the police representative, on November 8, 2021, Alika Kuprava was walking nearby Ketevan Tsamebuli Avenue N 61 in Tbilisi, close to the site of public gathering. The police claimed that Kuprava was aggressive, was shouting and insulting the police officers, who in response called on the citizen to calm down but he did not obey. Consequently, based on the Articles 166 and 173 of the Code of Administrative Offences, they arrested Alika Kuprava. The court heard the parties and did not satisfy the solicitation of the defense side to recuse the judge.
The minotiring of Alika Kuprava’s case revealed all those systemic problems identified in this one case, which are present in the Code of Georgia on Administrative Offences and which impacts the judiciary practice, particularly when the court examines the cases, where the code is used as a tool of political revenge.
- Case of Tsotne Lomidze. Judge Lela Tsagareishvili of the Administrative Case Panel at the Tbilisi City Court examined this case. According to the clarifications of the MIA, on July 12, 2021, at King Erekle II street in Tbilisi, protest rally was held in front of the Georgian Dream’s office. Police was deployed on the site, who tried to protect the public order, respond to and prevent offences. Member of the Girchi – More Freedom Tsotne Lomidze was also participating in the protest. He was throwing eggs towards the police officers. He also hindered the police to detain other persons under the administrative law. The MIA representatives arrested Tsotne Lomidze for administration offence under the Article 173 Part 1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses. He spent 48 hours in pre-trial detention. After the term expired, he was freed and then summoned to the court to examine his case. The evidence examined at the court hearing did not prove the fact of administrative offence; no neutral evidence were presented. Also, the defense side claimed that the witness, who attended the court hearing, was not the police officer, who arrested Lomidze. Nevertheless, the court found Tsotne Lomidze guilty in committing the administrative offense and gave verbal reprimand as a sanction.
Human Rights Center analyzed the findings from the trial monitoring of the cases with alleged political motives in the summary report, which will be presented at the conference on January 21, 2022.
The Document was prepared with the financial support of the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The views expressed in the Document are those of HRC and do not necessarily reflect the views of the donor. Therefore, NED is not responsible for the content of the text laid here.