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July 5 Pogrom: Participation in Group Violence Charge Dropped on Appeal for 6 Convicts

Today, the Tbilisi Court of Appeals dropped the group violence charges for the defendants convicted in the case of the July 5, 2021 pogroms against journalists. The first instance court conviction for participation in group violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity (Criminal Code, Art. 225’2) was overruled on appeal. The appeals court also reduced the prison terms from five to four years for the six convicts: Akaki Nakashidze, Tornike Davlasheridze, Davit Kutaladze, Otar Gelashvili, Tsotne Chikhladze, and Gia Giguashvili.

The first instance court ruled on this case on April 4, 2022. The six assailants were convicted over their participation in group violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity (Criminal Code, Art. 225’2), interference with journalistic work (Article 154’2), persecution (Article 156’2 a & c), and intentional infliction of less severe health damage with associated prolonged health impairment (Article 118’3). The last three charges were upheld by the Appeals Court today.

The Prosecutor’s Office plans to appeal the Appeals Court ruling at the Supreme Court of Georgia, the prosecution officials stated.

The pogrom in 2021 was directed against LGBTQ activists, but the violent mob targeted journalists covering the gathering. Out of 56 persons recognized as victims, 47 are journalists. One of them, cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava died after the assault. 27 persons were arrested for violence, but civil society groups say the organizers were not among them.

Several radical, extremist, and pro-Russian groups were implicated in violence, including Alt-Info and Georgian Idea. Alt-Info remains active: it issued new threats” against foreign agents on the Western payroll” on Sunday.

CSO Reactions

The Media Advocacy Coalition, a CSO that works on media issues, calls the decision made by the appeals court “alarming” and says that “the verdict is yet another step against journalists, freedom of expression, and democratic processes.”

According to the coalition’s statement, “it is troubling that, despite the publicly available evidence, no one has yet been held accountable for organizing the group violence.”

The coalition urges the government to guarantee the effective protection of journalists’ rights and hold the organizers and participants of the group attack on the media on July 5, 2021, to account.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) denounced the court’s ruling, pointing out that it strengthens the hate groups’ sense of impunity for their attacks on the media on July 5, 2021. According to GYLA, the main responsibility lies with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia as they are the authorities with the power to investigate and press charges.

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

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