The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia revealed documents related to the investigation into alleged intervention in the work of Supreme Court judges presiding over the Rustavi 2 case. The Prosecutor’s Office says that the documentation confirms there was intervention in the judges’ work.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, on January 11, 2017, Supreme Court judges Besarion Alavidze and Paata Katamadze received written letters which were mailed to their homes, where “the author suggests implementing certain actions and offers unlawful profit in exchange,” the Prosecutor’s Office said in an official statement.
The letters sent to the judges allegedly came from former UNM politician Davit Sakvarelidze, who in February 2015 was appointed as deputy general prosecutor of Ukraine. Sakvarelidze denies any involvement in the proposal for bribery. Speaking from Ukraine to Rustavi 2, Sakvarelidze criticized the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, commenting that: “Unfortunately, there is not a single competent and honest person left in the leading positions of the Prosecutor’s Office. What they are doing today is a felony, and it is called falsification of documents and evidence.”
The Prosecutor’s Office also released screenshots of phone messages which were sent to the judges’ mobile phones, asking whether the judges received the letters. The Prosecutor’s Office says that the phone number which sent the messages is Ukrainian, although it is not known who sent the messages.
The Prosecutor’s Office’s statement also notes that “apart from this case, both of the judges denied any other cases of attempted intervention in their work.”
Member of Parliament Sergi Kapanadze said he doubts in the Prosecutor’s Office’s version of the story: “How can anyone believe in this version of a story that someone sent documents via post with the message to pressure [the judges], then also sends messages [via phone text] asking whether he or she received the document?” he said. “This is so absurd that I just can’t imagine anyone can take it seriously… The original statement from the judges doesn’t say that there was pressure from specific people, and the Prosecutor’s Office hasn’t commented about it.”
The Prosecutor’s Office says they were approached by judges Alavidze and Katamadze with an investigation request on January 14, 2017, regarding intervention in the judges’ work. The judges’ statements were co-signed with the Chairman of the Supreme Court, Nino Gvenetadze. The Prosecutor’s Office also stated that there have already been active investigative measures.
On November 22, judges Besarion Alavidze and Paata Katamadze passed the Rustavi 2 case to the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court. Rustavi 2 is appealing the decisions made by Tbilisi City Court and the Appellate Court on granting 100% of the TV company’s shares to former owner Kibar Khalvashi and his company Panorama.
Rustavi 2 and several opposition parties (namely the United National Movement and the Free Democrats) see the ownership dispute as a political move, as the channel has been known to be critical of the Georgian Dream government. The General Director of Rustavi 2, Nika Gvaramia, has said on numerous occasions that the Georgian Dream seeks to take over the company, because they dislike the editorial policy of the channel. On June 10, 2016, the Appellate Court announced its decision to leave the previous verdict of the Tbilisi City Court unchanged, which ruled that 100% of the assets of Rustavi 2 are the property of the former owner Kibar Khalvashi and his company Panorama. Phaty Khalvashi, Kibar Khalvashi’s sister, is a member of Georgian Dream party and an MP for the Kobuleti District.