Court Left Detained June 20 Tbilisi Protest Activist in Custody

On March 13, Tbilisi City Court ruled to leave in custody Besik Tamliani, an activist detained during June 20-21 protests, who had rejected a plea bargain and pleaded not guilty in the case.

Tamliani is among alleged political prisoners (together with Irakli Okruashvili, Gigi Ugulava and Giorgi Rurua) whose immediate release the opposition insists. The opposition says that releasing these prisoners has been one of the preconditions for the March 8 Agreement. On March 9, they released a joint statement calling on the Georgian President and all state institutions to release from custody the said prisoners “by using legitimate tools at their disposal.”

During the trial, the Court rejected a request by defendant’s lawyer to replace the pre-trial detention with a GEL 1,000 (USD 360) bail as a preventive measure for Tamliani. Judge Aleksandre Iashvili based his decision on an assumption that the detainee “might have gone into hiding.”

Levan Ioseliani, Tamliani’s lawyer contradicted the judge asserting that the defendant’s side had presented a well-substantiated request and that no precondition had been left to prolong Tamliani’s pretrial detention. “We suggested electronic tagging by a wrist bracelet [to guarantee surveillance on Tamliani]; we said that interrogation of prosecutor’s witnesses was over and there was no possibility to tamper them,” Ioseliani stated.

Rusudan Tamliani, mother of Besik Tamliani, told reporters that the ruling was “politically motivated.” “I shall fight from outside [of the jail] to secure my son’s acquittal,” she said.

Case prosecutor Vazha Todua commented that Tamliani had been offered a plea agreement for several times, which would have led to his immediate release, but Tamliani refused to “conclude an agreement and demanded a hearing on the merits.”

“A number of people were charged in connection with the June 20-21 case,” said Todua, “but they pleaded guilty and did not dispute the allegations. Later, all of them were convicted by the Court.”

Tamliani’s pre-trial detention expires in early April.

Earlier, the prosecutor had concluded plea bargains with three other persons – Kakhaber Kupreishvili, Tsotne Sosealia and Zurab Budaghashvili – who subsequently were released from custody on March 6.

Tbilisi City Court found the defendants guilty and sentenced 3-year prison terms to each convict. Given the plea agreements, the Court replaced imprisonment with a 3-year probation period. Additionally, the Court imposed GEL 3000 fines on each convict.

On June 20-21, 2019, the police charged 19 protesters with inciting and participating in group violence. Those charged included Irakli Okruashvili, leader of the opposition Victorious Georgia party and Nika Melia, former MP from the United National Movement party. Nika Melia was then released on bail, while Okruashvili still remains in custody.

As for the other detainees, they were released from custody as a result of plea bargains, including Levan Jikuri, who suffered from grave health problems in the course of his detention. Civil activists held protests demanding his prompt release. Jikuri left jail on bail last August.

Jikuri’s release was preceded by the release on bail of a law enforcement officer detained for the abuse of power while dispersing the protest on June 20-21. This ruling triggered sharp criticism and protests from the public. In total, three law enforcement officers were detained on the same charges. Subsequently, all of them were released.

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

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