A group of 35 civil society organizations and media outlets issued a joint statement on February 19 calling on the Parliament of Georgia to set up an interim investigative commission over the case of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who went missing in Tbilisi on May 29, 2017, and appeared in a detention facility in Baku a day later.
The organizations urge the Parliament to summon the Interior Minister and the Chief Prosecutor, and call on the latter “to ensure involvement of experts and investigators from partner countries (the United States and the EU member states),” as well as to provide “timely updates” on the course of the investigation.
According to the statement, “doubts still persist over the participation of Georgian law enforcement agencies in the organized crime, and over the political loyalty expressed by the Georgian government to Azerbaijani authorities over the cases of Azerbaijani dissidents [living in Georgia].”
“Serious shortcomings that have been exposed in the course of the investigation have significantly reduced public trust and expectations of efficient investigation,” the organizations also noted.
Speaking on the matter on February 19, Parliament Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze stressed the case was “one of the most important cases” for the ruling party, and said he did not rule out the possibility of establishing an investigative commission. “The investigative commission is not off the table, and we may return to the issue, if the investigation fails to produce results in a timely manner,” Kobakhidze noted.
The European Georgia parliamentary minority has been calling for a parliamentary probe since June 2017, but their request has been left unanswered since then.
Afgan Mukhtarli, who was arrested on charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling money and police disobedience by Azerbaijani authorities, was sentenced to six years in prison on January 12. The United States and the European Union criticized the decision and called on the Azerbaijani government to release him immediately, and on the Georgian government to investigate his allegations.