The Tbilisi Court of Appeal’s decision today to uphold imprisoned Mtavari Arkhi TV Chief Nika Gvaramia’s sentence of 3 years and 6 months in prison has been met with a range of reactions from the political spectrum.
Below is a sampling of political reactions:
Georgian Dream Reacts
Irakli Kobakhidze, the Georgian Dream chairperson, stated in response to the ruling that to be a European state “means respect for the court… Everyone should respect the Court’s decision, this is important. In the rest, naturally, we cannot interfere in the decisions of the Court. We have no political interests, especially in this decision.”
Regarding calls from the opposition for President Salome Zurabishvili to pardon Gvaramia, MP Kobakhidze remarked, “You remember how the same Salome Zurabishvili was insulted by Nika Gvaramia, with what kind of rude words he referred to her. This was an insult not only to Salome Zurabishvili personally, but also to the Presidential Institution. If the President pardons Gvaramia under such conditions, it will be an insult to the institution of the President directly from the Georgian President, which I don’t think is right.”
Mikheil Sarjveladze, Georgian Dream MP and chairperson of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee stated, “What punishment is chosen, [and] what decision is made by the court is the Court’s business, and we cannot dictate conditions to the Court. As for the justification or unfoundedness of the conviction, the adequacy of the selected punishment, etc., one may have different views on this but nothing that has happened is illegal… Accordingly, I do not think the argumentation presented by the opponents, that we are dealing with politically motivated and other vicious events, has any basis in reality.”
David Matikashvili, another GD MP, emphasized, “The Court makes legal decisions” which fall within the scope of the law, and added, “everything else is speculation and a representation of a reality that does not actually exist. There are no political prisoners in Georgia.”
Khatia Dekanoidze, from the United National Movement, remarked that Gvaramia’s freedom is “important for the European integration of Georgia, including the fulfillment of the 12 points since Nika’s freedom is directly written in the European Parliament’s resolution and also it is directly written in the 12 points that Nika’s freedom is important for media freedom.”
In that context, MP Dekanoidze reiterated her call on President Salome Zurabishvili to “take her responsibility” and pardon Gvaramia “because this is not only about her political views, it is about Georgia’s European future [and] European integration.”
Badri Japaridze, one of the leaders of the Lelo for Georgia party, lamented, “Unfortunately, another step was taken o hinder the European integration process of our country. The Court, which is in the clutches of the Georgian Dream, has long turned into a tool of revenge against political opponents.”
Like Dakanoidze, he also appealed to the President to “use the right given to her by the Constitution and free Nika Gvaramia. This will be an important contribution made by the President to the implementation of the 12 recommendations defined by the European Union for Georgia.”
Giorgi Vashadze, Strategy Aghmashenebeli’s leader, underscored, “Georgia has two choices, either to Russia or to Europe, [and] our path is to Europe. Accordingly, on the way to Europe, we have many trials, and we will pass all these trials very quickly if we are united. We need a common European unity on the European flank after which we will get candidate status, we will free Gvaramia as a political prisoner, and Saakashvili will be free as a political prisoner, this is the only way. There is no other alternative but unity. Until unity is seen, all illusions must be removed, there will be no pardon, do not have this illusion, there will be no other decision in any Supreme Court, nothing will happen until the power of people’s unity is seen.”
Giga Bokeria, from European Georgia, stated, “Although we have all gotten used to it for years and we know from what we have seen that political persecution is the declared tool of [Bidzina] Ivanishvili’s regime, Gvaramia’s case is outstanding even by this standard. It can be said that the task of today’s decision was to demonstrate strength [and] demonstrate the course taken by Ivanishvili’s regime. If there were any decent, honest citizens who had any illusion that under this regime it is possible to put our country on the right path, return to the free world, and solve the fundamental issues of democracy, [now] everyone should destroy this illusion… As long as this regime can arrest people so ruthlessly, to openly demonstrate that I am arresting him because I can […] our country does not stand a chance.”
Elene Khostaria, leader of Droa, said, “The main conclusion to draw is that there can be no expectation of anything from this regime… This is the Russian regime, and the only thing the Russian regime does is imprison free people…”
She also urged citizens to not give up and “move forward, to not compromise, [but] fight, oppose, stop fighting with each other, and liberate the country.”
Note: This article was updated on 2 November at 15:55 to reflect Irakli Kobakhidze’s comments.