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Court Launches Consideration of New Dispute on Rustavi 2 TV Case

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The Tbilisi City Court has launched consideration of the lawsuit filed by Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze, co-founders of Rustavi 2 TV and the channel’s co-owners in 1994-2004, against the TV channel’s present owner, Kibar Khalvashi, demanding 60% of shares in the television.

According to Kakha Kozhoridze, defense lawyer of Dvali and Akimidze, the court accepted their motion and imposed freeze on 60% of Khalvashi’s shares.

Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze announced about launching a legal dispute to regain their shares in the TV channel on October 17th. They claimed that as a result of “an organized attack” orchestrated by top officials in 2004, they were forced to give up 60% of their shares to another person, identified as Paata Karsanidze. Karsanidze then subsequently transferred his shares to Kibar Khalvashi.

“We have no illusion that this process will be short and simple. We know that it will be a long and difficult road for us, but we hope that we will pass it successfully,” Jarji Akimidze told reporters on October 21.

Paata Salia, new director general of Rustavi 2 TV, said that the defendant will take legal steps only after receiving relevant documents from the court.

Background

According to various sources, within the period of 2004-2012 Rustavi 2 TV station changed hands almost 20 times. In late 2012, the company became owned by businessmen – brothers Gia and Levan Karamanishvili. After Georgian Dream came to power following the 2012 parliamentary elections, Rustavi 2 TV’s editorial policy became critical towards the new government.

Kibar Khalvashi, who co-owned Rustavi 2 TV in 2004-2006, launched a dispute over ownership of the station in 2015. In 2017, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that Kibar Khalvashi was the owner of 100% of shares of the TV channel. The European Court of Human Rights, whom the Karamanishvili brothers appealed to, suspended the enforcement of the ruling.

Brothers Karamanishvili tried to prove in Strasbourg that Georgian judges were biased which violated their right to a fair trial guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In its judgement of July 18, 2019, the seven-member Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared there had been no breach in fair trial guarantees in the case of the dispute surrounding the ownership of Rustavi 2. The Court also ruled “to discontinue” suspension of the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s decision of March 2017, which granted ownership rights of Rustavi 2 TV, to its former co-owner Kibar Khalvashi

Shortly after the court ruling Khalvashi was registered as the new owner of the TV company, appointing Paata Salia the television’s new director general.

Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze, co-founders of Rustavi 2 TV, said back in August that they would not accept 40% of shares in Georgia’s most-watched television broadcaster which Khalvashi had offered them. The latter had earlier promised 50% of shares in the station to the co-founders as well as appointment of Dvali to the position of director general in case of positive resolution of the dispute over Rustavi 2 TV launched in 2015. However, after winning the legal dispute and regaining control over the TV channel, Khalvashi failed to keep his promise.

For more background, follow our tag on Rustavi 2.

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