On February 13, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), a local watchdog, announced that decisions made by the court and the Prosecutor’s Office with regard to former Marneuli Mayor, Temur Abazov, “are doubtful and unfounded.” As stated by GYLA, Prosecutor’s Office downgraded criminal charges against Abazov without providing substantiation. Despite this dubious move, GYLA argues, Rustavi City Court had enough evidence not to acquit former Mayor and deliver guilty verdict in the trial.
“We have witnessed a decision on this case which puts justice upside down,” Sulkhan Saladze, chairman of GYLA, said at a press conference on February 13.
Sulkhan Saladze stated that Temur Abazov “is not an ordinary citizen in Marneuli, considering his status and role.” Therefore, Saladze does not rule out that the decision “might have an election-related context and the government pins its hopes on the people like him for the 2020 parliamentary elections.”
Later on the same day, GYLA released a statement, saying that court’s unfounded acquittal of Abazov encourages “a dangerous practice of degrading treatment” in the country.
GYLA also noted that, a couple of days ago, the Prosecutor’s Office released Abazov from charges under part 2 of the article 157 of the criminal code of Georgia, with reference to unlawful use and/or dissemination of personal or family secrets, information on private life or of personal data. The organization said that the probability of finding Abazov guilty under this article would have been high.
Temur Abazov was arrested on charges of inhuman and degrading treatment of a local resident on June 13, 2018. Later the court sentenced him to pretrial detention. In December 2018, he was released after paying a GEL 10,000 bail. On February 12, Rustavi City Court acquitted him.
The arrest came a day after Studio Monitor, Tbilisi-based group of investigative journalists, published a video footage of a Marneuli resident Elchin Alakhvediev, who had been compelled to apologize for verbally insulting the ruling Georgian Dream party founder and leader Bidzina Ivanishvili and Marneuli Mayor Temur Abazov at one of the teen murder case rallies in Tbilisi.
Another video, obtained by Studio Monitor, showed Alakhvediev forced into humiliation of wiping his face with what seemed to be his urine.
During a press conference on February 13, Temur Abazov denied the charges. “How is it possible to force someone to urinate?”, asked Abazov, noting that there was no direct evidence which could incriminate him.
GYLA has been defending the victim’s rights since the day of launching the investigation into the case.