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Ombudsman Speaks Out on Opposition Politician’s Trial

A court verdict against an opposition politician, Irakli Batiashvili, was “unjustified” and was made on the basis of insufficient evidence, Sozar Subari, the public defender, said.

Tbilisi City Court found Irakli Batiashvili guilty of providing “intellectual assistance,” essentially providing advice, to a rebel warlord, Emzar Kvitsiani, and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment in May.

Batiashvili denied the charges, saying they were politically-motivated. Most opposition parties in Georgia, as well as some human right groups, describe Batiashvili as “a political prisoner.” The case was raised by opposition leaders at a meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza in Tbilisi on July 27.

The public defender launched a probe into the case following an appeal by Batiashvili and his defense lawyer, Soso Baratashvili, in May.

Batiashvili, who was a member of the opposition Forward Georgia party, was Georgia’s security chief in the early 1990s. He was arrested on July 29, 2006, shortly after Emzar Kvitsiani, the leader of a paramilitary group based in upper Kodori Gorge, defiantly challenged the central authorities.

On August 1, 2006, the General Prosecutor’s Office released a taped phone conversation between Kvitsiani and Batiashvili, wherein Batiashvili tells the rebel warlord to “stand firm” and to call on government troops “not to use force and not to shed blood.”

The taped phone conversation was the main piece of evidence against Batiashvili. Defense lawyers claimed that it had been fabricated, with prosecutors selectively editing to incriminate their client.

The public defender’s report has given credence to this line of argument, saying that the court had failed “to fully investigate” the matter.

“The content of the taped phone conversations and their transcripts presented at the trial were not the same. Despite this, the judge ignored defense attorneys’ appeal to carry out an expert forensic examination,” the public defender’s report says.

It also says that the court “intentionally shied away” from summoning witnesses who could have given testimony in favor of Batiashvili.

The document also points out that Batiashvili’s conviction was “a grave violation” of “the accessory concept” wherein an accessory is normally tried after the principal has been convicted. Emzar Kvitsiani, who is wanted on charges of treason and attempting to plot a coup, is stiill at large and hasn’t been tried.

“Hence, Kvitsiani still remains innocent, as he hasn’t been convicted (presumption of innocence),” the document reads. “For this reason, Batiashvili was convicted for aiding and abetting a crime, which hasn’t been even proven in court.” 

“Based on an analysis of the case, it’s clear that the ruling by Tbilisi City Court was unjustified, and was based on insufficient evidence,” the report reads. “This ammounted to a violation of Batiashvili’s right to a fair trial.” 

The public defender has requested that the Council of Justice – a body overseeing the judiciary’s performance – launch disciplinary proceedings against Judge Maia Tetrauli, who presided over Batiashvili’s trial.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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