Former MP Sexual Violence Case Shows Signs of Political Motivation, Opposition Says

22 opposition groups, including almost all major parties, said on April 22 that the pretrial detention of former MP Gogi Tsulaia in the sexual violence case against him shows signs of “selective justice and a political motive of the Government.”

The opposition parties argued the political motive is made clear by the fact that the said restraint measure is “practically never” used in other similar cases.

“We take any accusations of violence against women very seriously,” the opposition parties stated, claiming however Tsulaia is actually being punished for verbal insults made against Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili’s son, Bera, in the wake of the covert recordings controversy.

The recordings, deplored publicly by Tsulaia shortly before his March 17 arrest, implicated Bera Ivanishvili in tasking Anzor Chubinidze, currently the Head of the Special State Protection Service, to humiliate and punish youngsters for online posts insulting the Ivanishvili family. In a separate recording, Irakli Garibashvili, current Prime Minister, seemed informed of the actions. Later, Bera Ivanishvili did not deny the authenticity of the tapes, and said they were from 2011.

Tsulaia was initially detained under Article 126 (1) of the Criminal Code of Georgia, involving violence, however, the Prosecutor’s Office changed the charges to Article 138 (1), covering sexual violence acts other than rape, punishable by a prison term of four to six years. The prosecution said that Tsulaia made sexual advances against a female acquaintance, who ended up injured after resisting.

Opposition parties said Tsulaia’s detention “confirms” that the Georgian Dream Government “serves the personal interests of the oligarch’s [Ivanishvili’s] family, and is ready to become a weapon of vengeance in the hands of the family members.”

The signatories of the statement initially included the United National Movement, European Georgia, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Girchi – More Freedom, Labor and Lelo for Georgia, among others. Lelo later said that their signature was included falsely, distancing from the joint statement.

Baia Pataraia, head of prominent women’s rights organization Sapari, decried the opposition statement as “horrible,” stressing that charges against Tsulaia are substantiated by evidence, including a recording of the former MP admitting his guilt. Pataraia also rebuffed the opposition’s claim that pretrial detention is not used in sexual violence cases.

“This statement is misogynistic and discriminatory against women victims… I am very disappointed,” Pataraia highlighted.

Tbilisi City Court Responds

Urging the signatory political parties to refrain from “spreading disinformation,” the Tbilisi City Court stressed that it has used detention as a preventive measure in other cases of alleged sexual violence in recent years, in accordance with the Criminal Code.

According to the Court’s statement, between 2019 and 2021, “seven motions were submitted to the Tbilisi City Court on the mentioned accusation [sexual violence], of which detention was applied to the accused in six,” while a plea agreement was signed between the parties in the remaining case, after which the defendant was sentenced to imprisonment.

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