Politicians Respond to Judge’s Allegations of MEP, U.S. Pressuring Judiciary

On July 15 Judge Lasha Chkhikvadze, who ruled to imprison opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika Gvaramia, accused MEP Michael Gahler of “directly pressuring” his colleagues to “correct old mistakes” made by the Judge and acquit Gvaramia as they started overseeing the case in the Tbilisi Court of Appeals on July 19.

According to Judge Chkihvadze, he was visited by U.S. Department of Justice representative Kevin Burke shortly before he was removed from a U.S. Judge’s exchange program, who questioned him 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.”

Judge Chkhikvadze’s accusations were met by varied reactions from politicians. Below is a sampling of reactions from both the ruling Georgian Dream party and opposition politicians:

Georgian Dream Responds

Irakli Kobakhidze, party Chairperson: “I was waiting for a clear explanation and a denial that no such intervention took place. We said many times in the past when there were reports about the [possible] influence that no one from the American Embassy would do such a thing. We expected such an answer from the Ambassador, that she was certain that the American Embassy had not done this. Therefore, we thought that she was denying that accusation that was leveled by Judge Chkhikvadze, however, we did not hear that, which is cause for thought and very concerning. It is of interest to us that we receive a clear answer as to what happened, whether pressure was applied or not, especially in such a harsh manner that Judge Chkhikvadze described. This fact should either be denied clearly or someone must take responsibility for the fact that a particular employee put pressure on a Georgian judge.”

Mamuka Mdinaradze, Executive Secretary of Georgian Dream: “It is an unimaginable story, if there actually was such an assessment, which I don’t want to believe. But, if there are questions [from the judge], concrete answers should be given, which I am in favor of. I, on the one hand, am very wary of any representatives of our strategic partners, be it Kelly Degnan or someone else. It was like that before and will be like this in the future because this is unthinkable for me from the representative of our main partner and friend, the USA. However, the doubts raised by the judge regarding this unbelievable story, which is supported by certain facts, need to be answered.”

Guram Machavarashvili: “We consider as unacceptable what we heard because to question a judge about a specific case… this is direct interference in justice and is unacceptable… We are a legal state and everyone should obey and respect the fundamental principle of democracy which is the independence of justice.”

Opposition Responds

Roman Gotsiridze, United National Movement: “Receiving information is one of the tasks of the Embassy’s work and it addressed him legally since this Judge was meant to go to America with the U.S. program, and it seems that his answer did not satisfy [the Embassy] and [they practically] removed him from the list…”

Natia Mezrishvili, For Georgia: “Today we saw the Judge’s direct involvement and alignment with the narrative of the [Georgian] Dream, which is worrying, especially for those strategic partners who, over the years, have practically invested millions in the independence of these judges.”

Giga Bokeria, European Georgia: “This is one more step on the classic path of authoritarian regimes that confront the West and blame the West of pressure, and try to keep us in this illusion that, apparently, our judiciary’s independence is being threatened from America and Europe. [Bidzina] Ivanishvili is at the head of this delusion, and this man’s behavior threatens the future of our country because he is confronting the free world for his own power.”

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


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