Court in London Rejects Extradition of Kezerashvili

A judge of London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court has ruled against extradition of Georgia’s ex-Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili, who is wanted by the Georgian authorities on number of criminal charges, which he denies as politically motivated.

Two years ago Kezerashvili fought off also successfully a separate extradition request by Georgia in France. A court in southern French city of Aix-en-Provence ruled against his extradition in February, 2014.

In both of the cases Kezerashvili’s defense argued that if extradited the ex-defense minister would have faced politically motivated prosecution.

Kezerashvili was chief of the financial police from 2004 till late 2006 and then served as Defense Minister till December 2008 before going into business.

Five separate sets of criminal proceedings have been brought against him since the change of government in Georgia in late 2012; in two of them, heard in the Georgian court, Kezerashvili was acquitted in absentia.

The ruling from the London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where extradition proceedings were ongoing since late November 2014, was delivered on March 21. Law firm BCL Burton Copeland, representing Kezerashvili, reported about the decision on April 5, apparently after it emerged that the Georgian authorities entered no appeal against the decision.

Georgia’s extradition request was declined by the court in London on the grounds of “extraneous considerations”, involving possible political motivation behind the prosecution in Georgia.

While noting that Kezerashvili’s extradition request “may have been made for entirely proper purposes”, the judge said in his decision that “on balance I consider it more likely than not that the desire to prosecute former [ruling and no opposition United National Movement party] UNM politicians is a purpose behind these requests.”

“It may not be the only purpose, but without that factor I do not believe, on balance, that these requests would have been made and pursued in the way they have been,” reads the 31-page decision of judge, which also includes a short summary of witness testimonies, among them from one of the UNM leaders and former mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava, who gave evidence before the court by a video link from Tbilisi prison.

“Looking at what has happened to others, I am satisfied that there is a reasonable chance, a serious possibility, that this defendant’s [Kezerashvili’s] liberty will be restricted (and in particular that he may be detained in pre-trial detention) because of a flawed prosecution process motivated by a desire to obtain a conviction of a UNM politician, or by a desire to obtain evidence from Mr Kezerashvili that can be used against senior former colleagues,” the judge said in his decision.

Georgian Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, told journalists on April 6 that despite of this ruling, the Georgian authorities will continue efforts to bring those former officials back to country, who are wanted in Georgia on various criminal charges.  

“We will see all those persons in Georgia, who have fled the country and who are facing criminal charges. Work in this direction will not stop. We have successful examples in this regard,” Tsulukiani said, referring to extradition of a former security official, who was extradited by the Netherlands last month.

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