Tbilisi City Court sentenced a lawyer and member of the opposition United National Movement’s political council to a term of four years and six months after finding him guilty of abuse of power and falsification of evidence. Giorgi Oniani was arrested in the courtroom right after the decision was announced on November 7. The opposition says Oniani’s detention is based on political motives.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia charged Oniani based on two incidents which occurred in 2011, when Oniani was working in the Ministry of Internal Affairs under the UNM government. According to the Prosecutor’s Office investigation, Oniani unlawfully detained the manager of the printing company Dao Print, Davit Shatirishvili, whose printing company printed t-shirts with the Georgian Dream coalition logo, which was then in the opposition.
The Prosecutor’s Office investigation suggests that Oniani planted drugs on Shatirishvili and arrested him for drug-related crimes. The Prosecutor’s Office has also claimed that another Georgian Dream supporter, DJ Levan Mdinaradze, was also arrested with drugs planted on him.
Political leaders from the opposition have spoken out against Oniani’s detention.
“Oniani was detained today because he is the member of the United National Movement. If [he] had moved to the European Georgia party [which split from the UNM in January 2017-ed], he would not have been detained,” Nika Melia, the chairman of United National Movement’s political council, told journalists.
European Georgia MP Otar Kakhidze said Georgia has “another political prisoner.”
“The main reason why the government went on with so much unlawfulness... is because the author of the lawsuit is an affiliate of Bera Ivanishvili [the son of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili]. By this the government demonstrates that whoever goes against Ivanishvili or his people will be adequately punished. We have another political prisoner. European Georgia will do everything to release Oniani,” Kakhidze said.
MP Kakhidze addressed Melia that: “We should talk about Ivanishvili’s government and his political orders which are being fulfilled by the court. This should be our main target. Focusing attention on other opposition parties and creating inner opposition controversies is irresponsible and foolish.”
Ruling Georgian Dream MP Eka Beselia, who is Chairman of Parliament’s Committee on Legal Issues, said in response to the opposition leaders that turning the case into one of political motives is “not convincing.”
“If the court thought that the suggested evidence was enough to accuse him and make such a decision, it means that those accusations were proven, and I don’t think that putting a political aspect on this case could be convincing for anyone other than the political force which probably still supports and cheers for that kind of violence which took place back then,” Beselia said.