The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia opened an investigation on June 11th into police’ abuse of power and potential falsification of evidence regarding the Birja Mafia case. The Prosecutor’s Office also agreed to release the two arrested members of Birja Mafia from pre-trial detention.
Two members of the satirical hip hop group Birja Mafia were arrested on June 8th and charged with possession of the drug MDMA; they potentially faced prison sentences of eight to 20 years.
One of the arrested men and their families deny the charges and say the drugs were planted on them by police. They claim they are being punished by police for their music video ‘Tsl Shavi Zeda’ which depicts a policeman on his knees on a leash like a dog.
“The detained have been sentenced to jail and this decision was appealed by the defence, which has requested to change the form of punishment. Bearing that in mind, and additionally bearing in mind that the accused express readiness towards cooperating with the investigation and the fact that they haven’t been charged before, the Prosecutor’s Office agrees to release the detained,” the Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement on June 11th.
In the evening of June 10th, protesters held a demonstration on Rustaveli avenue in Tbilisi in support of Birja Mafia; it was organized by the White Noise Movement, an organisation which is fighting against Georgia’s repressive drug policies.
Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili commented on the need to change the country’s drug policies earlier in the day on June 10th. The prime minister called on the Parliament of Georgia to speed up work on drug legislation in order to have more ‘humane’ drug policies by the plenary session opening in the Fall. In his statement the prime minister went on to say that “no youngster, no citizen, has ever been punished because of freedom of expression.”
Georgian rapper Bera, who is son of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, posted in Georgian on his Facebook page on June 10th that “I stand beside you guys,” followed by the hashtag #FreeBirjaMafia.
A few hours after, Vice Prime Minister and Energy Minister of Georgia Kakha Kaladze posted a video on his Facebook page saying that “[Georgia’s] drug policies need radical changes.” He added that if any policeman planted drug on the rappers that “everyone should be adequately punished.”
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia said police searched Mikheil Mgaloblishvili, also known by his stage name “Young Mic,” and found 1.4965 grams of MDMA on his person. Giorgi Keburia, also known as “Kay G,” was found with 2.3342 grams of MDMA.
Keburia plead guilty to the charges. In a court trial on June 9th, however, Mgaloblishvili said his arrest was linked to the music video. He told the court that when he was arrested, law enforcement agents told him that "someone is annoyed” and that he will be punished for it, that “anyone who represents police in such a manner will be punished." He says he was pressured to take a drug test and that there were no signs of drugs in his blood.