While visiting the Western Georgian city of Zugdidi on July 19, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan responded to a question regarding continued controversy on the U.S.’ critical position on Judge Lasha Chkhikvadze’s decision to imprison opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika Gvaramia, saying “I think it’s being spun up, and I think a lot of is being made out of something that is absolutely not a scandal.”
Referencing the U.S.’ longstanding relationship with Georgia, Amb. Degnan emphasized “We need to be able to talk about our disagreements, and we do that usually in private, which is most effective. Sometimes we speak out publicly if it’s an issue that we have great concerns about, and that’s what we did in this case.”
She denoted that the U.S.’ was not alone in its public statements expressing concern about the “timing and the charges involved” with the Public Defender of Georgia, civil society organizations, and other international partners doing the same. “This was done quite publicly, and it is quite a normal thing to have happen – this is standard practice,” she added.
In reference to a meeting between a U.S. Embassy representative and Chkhikvadze after the Gvaramia ruling, the Ambassador reiterated that considering the U.S. has spent years working with Georgia’s judiciary, “these are routine meetings that happen all the time, and if people want to mischaracterize them or spin them up into more than what they are, which is just routine meetings, that is obviously for their own purposes.”
Regarding the Judges’ exchange programs, she repeated that “they are open to anyone who is qualified, available, and open to benefiting from the purpose of these exchanges, which is to go to meet with American counterparts, exchange views, learn from each other, and then bring that back to Georgia.”