The Appellate Court of Georgia made two rulings on June 12th to release the arrested members of hip hop group Birja Mafia.
The court ruled to release Mishka Mgaloblishvili in exchange for a 50,000 GEL bail. Because the family is unable to pay the bail, the flat belonging to Mgaloblishvili’s mother will be put as the pledge. Mgaloblishvili will also be deprived of his passport so that he cannot leave the country before the next court date on June 27th.
One hour later, at around 16:00, the second member of the group, Giorgi Keburia, was also released from detention according to the decision of the Appellate Court of Georgia. Keburia is released on a 20,000 GEL bail.
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. Group member Giorgi Keburia plead guilty to the charges; Mgaloblishvili denies the charges against him.
In a court trial on June 9th, Mgaloblishvili said his arrest was linked to a Birja Mafia music video which shows a policeman on a leash like a dog. 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.
Mgaloblishvili spoke after his release from pre-trial detention on June 12th: “Thanks to my family members, my friends, my fans, my colleagues who were beside me and to absolutely everyone who with all honesty stood beside me. Shame on everyone who attempted to use these events for their political aims, because it is the civic and moral responsibility of all of us to fight against such injustice,” he said.
On June 11th, the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia announced in an official statement that it has agreed to release Mgaloblishvili from pre-trial detention and that it will open an investigation into police’s abuse of power and potential falsification of evidence in regards to the case.
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.
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.”