UPDATE: Court Sentences Two to Pre-trial Detention in Eviction Standoff Case

On January 25, the Tbilisi City Court sentenced two people, Akaki Chikobava and Giorgi Khasaia, to pre-trial detention in connection with the Kekelidze eviction. Khasaia and Chikobava are accused of damaging the car of the National Bureau of Enforcement.

The defendants are charged under Article 187, Part 2, Subsection “c” of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which provides for the punishment of a group for damaging or destroying another person’s property, resulting in substantial damage.

The defendants partially confessed, saying that they had damaged the car, but not in a group. According to their lawyer, Khasaia and Chikobava agreed to pay for the damage.

Today, a group of supporters gathered at the Tbilisi City Court to demand the release of Chikobava and Khasaia, who are also members of the Khma [Voice] movement advocating for workers’ rights. Meanwhile, the academic staff, including nearly forty people from Tbilisi State University, where Chikobava teaches, issued a statement saying that the removal of Dr. Akaki Chikobava from the educational process will be harmful both to the Georgian educational and scientific space and to Akaki Chikobava himself “as a promising young researcher.

Following the court’s decision to sentence Chikobava and Khasaia to pre-trial detention, activists and students held a protest rally in the courtyard of Tbilisi State University, demanding the immediate release of the arrested. Otherwise, according to Formula News, the gathered demonstrators said they would start “massive protest rallies”.

Both Khasaia and Chikobava were arrested on January 23 after a dramatic eviction on Kekelidze Street in Tbilisi which turned into a tense standoff between the authorities and the evicted family and a group of protesters, including the aforementioned individuals. A further 18 people were detained on the same day, but unlike Khasaia and Chikobava, they were only charged with administrative offences.

On January 27, dozens of Georgian writers, translators and publishers issued a joint statement calling the arrest of Chikobava and Khasaia “an unjust and grave decision that harms society. The statement, which has already been signed by more than eighty people, calls for the release of the convicts.

“Otherwise, we will consider it as the establishment of a criminal network involving the state, banks and private financial entities. And we will participate in protests and fight the system with all legal forms,” the statement reads.

“The eviction of families in brazen and brutal ways because of their loans has become a frequent occurrence recently.” According to the signatories of the statement, “no one denies that the loan must be paid,” but they believe that the “dishonest creditors” have taken advantage of the difficult situation in the country. “The most alarming thing is that they are trying to take away people’s homes without any negotiations, which raises suspicions that a criminal network has been created.”

The signatories say they are not against the financial institutions, and these institutions themselves must be interested in eradicating the existing system.

The article was updated on January 26, 2024 at 11:40 to reflect the protest in the TSU courtyard, and on January 28, 2024 at 13:25 to add the joint statement by the writers, translators, and publishers.

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