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The News in Brief

Tuesday, December 15
Former head of Joint Staff denies charges

The former head of the Joint Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces, Giorgi Kalandadze, has denied the charges filed against him in connection with the torture of a Georgian citizen, Elbert Koberidze, under the United National Movement government.

According to him, he will use all legal means to establish the truth.

"As of today, there is the only one witness against me. He had been sentenced to 8 years in prison and was released after he testified against me. I will resort to all legal means to convince the public once again that the current Georgian government does the bidding of the Russian authorities," Giorgi Kalandadze told Rustavi 2.

The former Deputy Head of the General Staff Giorgi Kalandaze, the former Deputy Defence Minister Davit Akhalaia, former employee of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Regional Police of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Giorgi Shamugia, former Head of Military Department Megis Kardava and former Head of the CSD (Constitutional Security Department) main department of Abkhazia’s Autonomous Republic Roman Shamatava are charged the torture and illegal deprivation of Elbert Koberidze’s liberty.

The court has ordered pre-trial detention for Kalandadze and Samushia, while the two others remain wanted. Their lawyers are going to appeal against the decision.

Georgia’s Ministry of Economics scores lowest in openness survey

The Ministry of Economic Development is the most closed public institution in Georgia, in terms of providing public information.

This is one of the findings in a new report published on Friday by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

According to Georgian legislation, public institutions have a maximum term of ten days to provide public information to an interested party.

In 2015, the IDFI asked 307 public institutions to provide various articles of information and received 3,961 complete answers out of a total of 8,297 questions. Of these, 438 were answered partly, while the rest were left unanswered.

The Ministry of Economic Development failed to respond to all 44 requests sent by the IDFI. Among 286 administrative bodies subordinate to different ministries, there were only eight institutions which didn’t respond to a single request by the organization. Seven of them were subordinate to the Justice Ministry and the eighth was the Council of Tsalka.

The Ministry of Justice worsened its performance by 45.9 percent compared to last year, while the government administration worsened by 74.8 percent.

The most open ministries were the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, the Sports Ministry, the Ministry of Refugees, the Environment Protection Ministry, the government office and all ministries of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara.

The IDFI commended the Ministry of Energy for improving access to public information by 61.1 percent, compared to 2014.

This latest report is part of the “Public Information Database –” project and was made as with the financial support of Open Society Georgia Foundation. The IDFI launched the program in 2010, focusing on receiving information about financing, salaries and other issues, expanding the list of addressees over the years.

During these five years, the organization has received 24,438 answers out of a total of 30,152 requests sent to public institutions. The record highest number of answers was in 2013, when 90 percent of requests were satisfied completely or partly. In 2014, the response rate fell to 82 percent, while in 2015, the rate was 86 percent. The first year’s survey showed the least amount of openness, with only 33 percent of requests satisfied and 48 percent rejected.

The most open institutions during the five years the IDFI has carried out its survey were the Public Defender’s Office and the Gamgeoba of Dmanisi Municipality, and for this they received special awards from the organization.
(DF watch)

Fire erupts in Tbilisi Zoo hay store

A fire broke out at the Tbilisi Zoo hay store, and has destroyed up to 80 sq.m of the zoo's infrastructure.

Seven brigades of fire fighters worked at the scene. The fire was extinguished. Nobody has been injured.

It remains unknown what caused the fire. A short circuit could has been speculated to be the cause, and the zoo remains without electricity at the moment.

There was no need for an evacuation of the Zoo.