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Controversially Convicted Israeli Businessman Complains of Abuse in Prison

By Ernest Petrosyan
Friday, September 23
The Israeli Embassy in Tbilisi expressed its concern and indignation over the maltreatment of two Israeli citizens - businessmen, Ron Fuchs and Zeev Frenkiel. According to the embassy, Ron Fuchs sent a letter to his attorney Archil Kbilashvili, complaining of maltreatment. As Kbilashvili said the letter by Fuchs read that masked people dressed in black entered his cell at 02:00 on September 17.

As Kbilasvili told The Messenger, the masked men made Fuchs stand face against the wall and raise his hands up. “It had been happening for several days in a row, when masked guys woke him in the middle of the night making him stand for hours facing the wall, throwing around his private things, including his Sidur [prayer book], and offending him. The last time they threatened him by planting cocaine in his cell,” the lawyer said.

“Logically I would relate these actions of physical and psychological pressure to several facts. Firstly, after already 11 months of prison they [the Israeli prisoners] still deny their guilt. Secondly, they still demand 100 million dollars won by trial from the government. Both facts are not favorable for the government, and they decided to apply some pressure with such rough actions, to show them that their life in prison will not be 'sweet',” Kbilashvili said.

As for current appeal procedures, Kbilashvili told us that the case is pending at the Supreme Court. “We lost previous cases, as was expected. Now the case will be considered at the Supreme Court, though we are not hopeful of succeeding there either. In case the appeal at the Supreme Court brings positive results, we will apply to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg,” added Kbilashvili.

“We have sent the letters of concern and protests about the inappropriate treatment of the imprisoned Israeli citizens. The letters have been sent to the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Public Defenders office," the Israeli Ambassador Itzhak Gerberg told The Messenger.

The Israeli businessmen, 61 year old Fuchs and 64 year old Frenkiel, were detained on October 14, 2010 in Batumi and accused of attempting to bribe a deputy finance minister. Later, on April 1, 2011, Tbilisi city court announced the final verdict sentencing businessmen Frenkiel to 6 years and 6 months and Fuchs to 7 years imprisonment. The businessmen are also liable to pay fines to the Georgian state budget: Frankel 60,000 USD and Fuchs 300,000 USD. While the trial is formally over, the scandal is not and as it has had a serious impact on relations between Georgia and Israel.

An arbitration case involving Fuchs, a Greek national Ioannis Kardassopoulos, and the Georgian government goes back to 1991 when Tramex entered Georgia's energy sector. Tramex established a joint initiative with the Georgian state oil company to develop oil pipeline networks. The permit was cancelled in 1996 when Georgia established the Georgian International Oil Corporation, which eventually reached an agreement with an international consortium to build an oil pipeline to transport oil from Azerbaijan to the west via Georgia and Turkey.

In November 2004, the Georgian government denied the claims of Fuchs and Kardassopoulos and they filed two separate suits against Georgia in the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), part of the World Bank group.

This past March, the tribunal ruled that Georgia violated the multilateral Energy Charter treaty, unlawfully expropriated Kardassopoulos's investments and violated a bilateral investment protection treaty signed between Georgia and Israel.

According to the ruling, Fuchs and Kardassopolous were to each receive USD 15.1 million compensation payments for losses as well as interest equaling USD 30 million for each. Georgia was also ordered to compensate the two men's arbitration costs.

Georgian authorities deny the allegations of Israeli businessmen.