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Former Judge on Gvaramia Case Accuses MEP, U.S. of Pressuring Judiciary

Judge Lasha Chkhikvadze, who ruled to imprison opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika Gvaramia, accused MEP Michael Gahler of “directly pressuring” his colleagues who will oversee the case in the Tbilisi Court of Appeals on July 19.

Chkhikvadze’s statement, released by Rustavi 2 TV on July 15, is response to MEP Gahler’s address in the European Parliament on July 13, accuses the foreign actors of putting pressure on the Georgian judges to influence their decisions.

MEP Gahler, speaking in the European Parliament said, “we do hope that the Appeal Court will use the opportunity to acquit Gvaramia on Tuesday of next week in order to correct earlier mistakes and to restore the strong voice of free media.” MEP Gahler underscored that “It’s never too late to correct mistakes of the past also for the politicized judiciary.” “The case is widely perceived as an attempt to silence a voice critical of the government and the voice of Gvaramia and Mtavari [Arkhi] TV is taken seriously and appreciated by international partners of Georgia be it governments or international organizations,” the MEP had emphasized.

In response, judge Chkhikvade wondered what reaction it would solicit, if MEP Gahler were to “put such pressure on judges in his own country [Germany] and give them direct instructions in a specific criminal case.”

“Of course, the appellate court can make any decision, including an acquittal and in this particular case, I have no personal, and even less so, political interest regarding the defendant,” Chkhikvadze underlined. “However, in my opinion, the statement of MEP Gahler directly pressures my colleagues who have to consider the case in the higher instance.”

Saying that he has “personal experience of such pressure,” Chkihvadze referred to his removal from a planned study trip to the U.S.. Chkhikvadze said he had met with U.S. Department of Justice representative Kevin Burke before the planned trip, who “asked me about the factual circumstances of the case and told me that the Ambassador is interested in why I decided on a guilty verdict, and especially why I used imprisonment as the punishment.”

Chkhikvadze added that soon after the meeting, “my participation was no longer desirable and I was removed from the list [of participants in a study trip].”

“The situation was baffling to me. However, it did not end here, now some political forces are threatening me with ‘sanctions’ because of the outcome of this particular case, and I do not want my colleagues [in the appeals court] to go through the same thing, though it is already clear they will be exposed [to pressure],” he added.

Chkhikvadze called on “political parties, the diplomatic corps, and international and non-governmental organizations operating in Georgia to refrain from putting pressure on the court and allow judges to administer justice in a peaceful environment and make decisions based on the Georgian constitution, law, and inner faith.”

Chkhikvadze sentenced Gvaramia to 3.5 years on May 16 for abuse of power over his managerial decisions when he ran Rustavi 2 TV. The decision has been met with widespread criticism from opposition parties, international partners, and civil society organizations, among others with the Public Defender of Georgia urging President Salome Zurabishvili to pardon the TV chief.

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


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