Former Chief Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze, who was accused of physically assaulting then Chief Auditor Lasha Tordia in May 2017, was officially charged on November 5, with prosecution requesting him to be fined GEL 5,000 (approximately USD 1800).
The Prosecutor’s office confirmed on November 6 that Partskhaladze was charged under article 126 of the criminal code of Georgia, involving beating or other type of violence that has resulted in physical suffering.
“Since such act belongs to the category of less grave offenses, a fine was requested for Otar Partskhaladze,” the prosecutor’s office said, adding that a preliminary court hearing into the case will be held on December 20.
It also said that the investigation is also underway into the Omega Group case and if needed, Partskhaladze will be interrogated in connection with this case too.
Otar Partskhaladze’s defense lawyer, Gagi Mosiashvili said that the former chief prosecutor pleads not guilty. “We are ready to prove his innocence in a fair court,” he noted.
The interests of the plaintiff, former Chief Auditor Lasha Tordia are defended by local human rights watchdog, Human Rights Center, whose representatives demand charging Partskhaladze under article 353 of the Criminal Code which implies assault on Police officers or other representatives of the authorities and is punishable with a prison sentence.
The defense claims, the motive for Partskhaladze’s assault on Tordia, was an investigation that the Audit Office was conducting regarding the allegations of illegal transfer of property to Partskhaladze.
Tordia’s lawyers say the prosecutor’s office was “passive and cynical” towards this case, and argue that the charges against Partskhaladze were brought with 18 month delay due to the presidential elections, as well as the pressure put on the government by international organizations and friendly states.
A Political Liability
Otar Partskhaladze’s career has been mired in transparency.
He was appointed Chief Prosecutor in November 2013 and soon got embroiled in accusations of removing from custody and pressuring inmate Vano Merabishvili, Georgia’s former Interior Minister. Subsequently, it has been revealed that Partskahadze had a criminal record while residing in Germany in 2000. Following these allegations, he resigned the post on December 30, 2013.
His next appearance in public spotlight was linked to beating of the Chief of Audit Office Todria n May 2017. Todria was investigating the allegations of corruption, linked to illegal transfer of land plots to Partskhaladze.
There have been speculations, that Partskhaladze continued to play a role of the fixer, which has been also alluded to in scandalous Subeliani tapes on the eve of the first round of Presidential Elections. He was also mentioned in a case of alleged racketeering, as someone who had briefly incarcerated and beat Levan Kipiani, a former Minister of Sports. Rustavi 2 TV Channel also ran a lengthy report regarding Partskhaladze’s mansion, alleging misappropriation of funds.
As Partskahaldze’s name got embroiled in elections, Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the Georgian Dream had to respond to questions about Partskhaladze’s role in televised interview on October 24. Ivanishvili has defended former prosecutor, saying “he has no reason to punish” Partskhaladze, and accused Rustavi 2 journalist of fabricating the tapes.
Georgia’s Public Broadcaster has reported yesterday, that Partskhaladze was interviewed by the police on November 5, but gave no details. It has transpired today, that he has also been charged by the prosecution.
Commenting on the matter, Kakha Kaladze, Secretary General of ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia said that “nobody is untouchable in the country” and “everyone who have committed crimes will be held accountable.”
The opposition links Prosecution’s delayed interest in the case to the tightly contented second round, in which Partskhaladze became a liability. “They are so concerned with their failure [in the first round of elections] that they want to create an impression that they are resolving some outstanding problems. Perhaps, they thought, if we charge Partskhaladze, people would think we are fighting corruption,” said Sergi Kapanadze, of the opposition European Georgia.
“This is a pre-election stage show, they will charge him under the lightest possible article [of the Criminal Code], putting everything in the context of a male fistfight and will fine him”, said Roman Gotsiridze, of the opposition United National Movement (UNM). In fact however, he argues, Partskhaladze “is an integral element of the corrupt system” and is “practically untouchable”.
Chair of the Parliamentary Commitee on Judicial Issues, Eka Beselia, of the ruling GDDG has categorically denied links with electioneering: “irrespective of the political calendar, investigation has to react where and when it has sufficient proof to take decision,” she stated.