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Georgian Judges Sanctioned by US State Department Speak Out Against Accusations

Mikheil Chinchaladze, Levan Murusidze, Irakli Shengelia and Valerian Tsertsvadze, the judges from the Georgian “judicial clan” who were sanctioned by the U.S. State Department on April 5, have made their first comments on the sanctions imposed yesterday by the US Department of State.

Levan Murusidze

Speaking with the TV network “Mtavari Arkhi” Levan Murusidze denied abusing his power, claiming that he didn’t deserve to be sanctioned. He said it was bad for him but “life goes on” and he “will get over it somehow”, adding that it is a “really great injustice”. He noted: “I don’t have any accounts anywhere, I’ve lived an honest life, I haven’t broken the law… I’m not involved in corruption and I have always made the decisions that I thought were right and legal. But now, what can we do, it is what it is…”

He also added: “Nobody asked why the court made this or that decision, right? Well, if they had asked, let’s say, why the court decided it, the court would have given its argument… if now they won’t let us into the United States of America or the European Union, neither my grandfather visited them and the man lived a normal life and overcame that…”

Levan Murusidze also commented to “Rustavi 2,” saying: “In fact, the talk is that they want to take control and rule over the judiciary. No one needs an independent judiciary, they want to get into the court system and run the court system. When I made statements about the American Embassy, [that] in reality they are not helping the judicial system in any way and this is all PR, they thought Levan Murusidze was preventing them from getting into the judicial system, from establishing control, and this is understandable.”

Furthermore, Murusidze expressed concern: “I don’t think they will stop, sometimes I think they may even go as far as ending life… The Ambassador declared that justice is not night calls and bribes. I don’t know what to say if the Ambassador knows that Levan Murusidze makes night calls, i.e. they listen to my phone”.

Levan Murusidze is considered to be a member of the so-called “Judicial clan”, wielding influence over Georgia’s judiciary. Murusidze is connected to a number of high-profile cases such as Aleksandre Girgvliani’s murder, and the case of Rustavi 2 TV Station. At the same time, the currently imprisoned former deputy head of the State Security Service of Georgia (SSG), Ioseb (Soso) Gogashvili, has stated that he worked with Murusidze in the past to “sort out” court disputes in favor of the Georgian Dream party.

Valerian Tsertsvadze

Valerian Tsertsvadze, a former judge who was also on the list of those sanctioned by the U.S., denied the allegations against him, claiming in a Facebook post that the State Department made its decision “based on unsubstantiated information.” He claimed: “I would like to state that I categorically deny the allegations that have been made. I would like to point out that it has been 6 years since I held any judicial or other government position, so to call me a judge for life is clearly a deliberate distortion of the facts.”

In addition, Tsertsvadze noted: “I would like to state unequivocally that there are no facts and no evidence to support allegations made. I believe that statements made without any justification and in violation of the presumption of innocence have a political content. It is very sad, but I believe that this is aimed at gaining influence in court and discrediting it completely.”

On October 8, 2008, Valerian Tsertsvadze was elected as the Secretary of the High Council of Justice. In 2017, Tsertsvadze stepped down from his role as chairman of the Court of Appeal several months before his term was due to end. Chinchaladze was appointed as his successor shortly after, leading some non-governmental organizations to speculate that the identity of the next chairman had been predetermined.

Irakli Shengelia

Irakli Shengelia, a former member of the High Council of Justice, addressed the imposition of sanctions against him. He echoed his colleagues’ opinion that the U.S. State Department lacks an explanation for the sanctions and only claims to have “some reliable information” that substantiate the corruption allegations. He asserted that he and the sanctioned judges have always remained faithful to Georgia’s law and added, “no kind of pressure, illegal manipulation has ever been exerted by me or anyone else on other judges in order to interfere in their activities.”

Shengelia further noted that the U.S. has used the same tactics in Albania and Ukraine, where “under the guise of ‘reform,’ the system was purged of undesirable judges.” He stated that he and his family are no longer interested in visiting the U.S. after seeing how the country has lost it’s democratic values – rule of law, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms – through such actions. He noted: “U.S. Secretary of State and Ambassador Degnan reinstated the Lynch Law (figuratively, of course) and in this way Georgian judges were “convicted” and “found guilty”, which once again shows their “high democratic standards”.”

Additionally, he emphasized that he has a “traditional family” and has raised his children with integrity. He stated: “In the USA, changing a child’s gender from the age of 6 is regarded as one of the main democratic achievements of recent times, but I am not interested in such ‘values’ since they are unnecessary for my family.”

Since 2021, Shengelia has worked as the deputy of chairman Chinchaladze at the Tbilisi Court of Appeal. From 2017 to 2020, he served as a member of the High Council of Justice. Shengelia has close family ties to other branches of the judicial system and has faced accusations of participating in the “ugly practice of the court,” which involves sentencing citizens to prison solely based on a police officer’s testimony.

To be updated…

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