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The News in Brief

Monday, August 5
Gunava reinstated as Samegrelo governor

President Saakashvili said on August 1 that he was reinstating Tengiz Gunava who was released from jail on July 30 after a presidential pardon, as a governor of Samegrelo region.

Speaking at a meeting with a group of senior UNM lawmakers and provincial governors, Saakashvili said Gunava, who was sentenced to four years in jail on embezzlement charges on July 12, “should continue performing his duties as governor of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region.” Gunava was also present at the meeting.

Commenting on the President’s decision to pardon Gunava, parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili said on July 31: “This decision confirmed one thing: we have a president who is a threat, who is entrusted by the constitution with certain rights, which have never been enough for him… We have to tolerate him for three more months and then everything will be sorted out.” Usupashvili also said that the legality of the president’s decision to pardon Gunava was questionable.

President Saakashvili said on August 1 that his decision to pardon Gunava “was not only legal, but also just and his arrest was a huge injustice.

Investigation of prisoner’s death over

The investigation of the reasons of death of prisoner Levan Kortava is over. The prosecutor’s office has unveiled the details of the investigation. Prisoner Kortava died of injuries inflicted to him in prison by several persons. According to the prosecutor’s office, four employees of the penitentiary department and one prisoner connected with Kortava’s death have been detained. Six other convicts, who participated in the violence against Kortava, will also face charges.
(Rustavi 2)

Violence-Related Charges Dropped against Orthodox Cleric

A Tbilisi City Court judge ordered that the criminal charges levied against an Orthodox cleric be dropped. The cleric was charged with partaking in the brutal, homophobic violence that took place during the May 17 anti-homophobia rally where several peaceful demonstrators were violently tracked down and beaten. The charges were dropped against the priest because there was purportedly an “absence of cumulative evidence” against the man in the case. This is despite the fact that there is ample video evidence circulating on social networks that clearly show members of clergy and regular citizens violently attacking the peaceful activists.

Archimandrite at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Antimoz (Tamaz) Bichinashvili, as well as another Orthodox priest Iotam (Irakli) Basilaia and three other men were charged in late May with obstruction to freedom of assembly; charges were filed against them without being arrested.

One of the homophobe priests was Tamaz Bichinashvili, who can be seen clearly in one the videos on May 17 swearing and shouting “We will kill you” as the crowd, led by other homophobe Orthodox priests, was moving in mob fashion, violently towards a small group of peaceful gay rights activists, who were intending to hold anti-homophobia rally in Tbilisi center.

At a preliminary court hearing on August 1 judge, Merab Jorbenadze, said that even if the video footage available in the case was incontrovertible evidence, it was the only piece of evidence in the case against Tamaz Bichinashvili making it impossible for the case to be heard on its merits.

“There is no cumulative evidence present in the case and the court terminates criminal proceedings against the accused,” the judge said.

Defense lawyers were requesting the same move in respect for four other defendants, but the judge deemed evidence against those four men admissible and ordered their cases to be tried on merits during a trial expected to launch in mid-August. However, due to the free reign and wide support that the religious establishment enjoys in the country, little if any punitive actions are expected against the other homophobic men who have been charged in this disgraceful act.

Constitutional amendments to be adopted before the presidential elections

The Constitutional amendments will be adopted before the presidential elections. “We want that these Constitutional changes be adopted before the presidential elections. We expect more than 100 MPs will support these amendments,” Chairperson of parliament Davit Usupashvili said.

According to Usupashvili, these amendments should be carried out before the new president's inauguration; “otherwise, we will have to change it after the president's inauguration,” he said.
(Front News)

Detained high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Agriculture to leave prison on August 5

Detained high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia are expected to leave prison when their trial is supposed to be held.

“I hope that the prosecutor’s office will make a motion to change the preventive measure, otherwise we will do it. But at the same time, it is very important what amount of bail will be required,” the defendant’s lawyer Soso Baratashilili told Frontnews.

In May 2013, officers of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, detained several high-ranking officials at the Ministry of Agriculture and Mekanizatori ltd Company. They are accused of misappropriating and embezzling a large amount of state funds; negligence at work and for exercising pressure on a group of experts in order to conceal their crime.
(Front News)

Georgian government informs diplomats about presidential election preparations

Members of the Georgian government met with the diplomatic corps on Friday and talked about preparation for the presidential elections. "We are ready to provide information to both local and international organizations and listen to their recommendations. The case was the actions of the executive power in the pre-election period,” MP Tina Khidasheli said adding that the bill about financing the parties was also discussed at the meeting and now it will be viewed by the parliament next week. The Georgian Foreign Ministry also informed the diplomats about the simplification of registration in consulates for Georgian citizens living abroad. Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani talked about the transfer of an Interdepartmental Commission to provide fair Election from the jurisdiction of National Security Council to the jurisdiction of Justice Ministry.

Batumi botanical garden marks 100th anniversary

Batumi botanical garden, located 8 km away from the seaside city, marked its 100th anniversary. It was founded by Professor from Kharkov University, Andrei Krasnov. A rare species of exotic plants are preserved in the botanical garden. More than three-hundred tourists visit the botanical garden every day. For children under 10, the entrance is free, while it costs GEL 1 for children ages10-17. As for Georgian citizens, above 17 the price for access is GEL 3 and for foreigners – GEL 6.
(Georgian News)