The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Monday, May 23
Venice Commission starts to study the bill submitted by Georgian President

The Venice Commission has started to study a bill submitted by President Giorgi Margvelashvili.

According to the Presidential Administration, the President received a letter form Venice Commission President Gianni Buquicchio.

"We will try to prepare our preliminary public opinion regarding the Organic Law on the Constitutional Court and the Organic Law on Constitutional Proceedings in ten days,” says the letter, signed by Gianni Buquicchio.

Protest Rally Against Guilty Verdict in ‘Cable Case’

Demonstrators gathered outside the Prosecutor’s Office on Saturday at a rally organized by the Free Democrats opposition party and denounced the guilty verdict against five former Defence Ministry and general staff officials.

Addressing protesters at the rally, leader of the FD party Irakli Alasania said that the five “innocent” men had been put behind bars as a result of “political pressure” exerted by ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili on the Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary.

“Let’s pledge to each other that we will not let Ivanishvili prevail with this injustice…the power of the people can rectify this injustice,” said Alasania, who called the Prosecutor’s Office “embodiment of injustice.”

Tbilisi City Court found five former MoD and general staff officials guilty of misspending budgetary funds and sentenced them to 7-year prison term on May 16; defence lawyers are going to appeal the verdict.

One former and four serving officials from MoD and general staff of the armed forces were arrested on October 28, 2014 and charged with misspending GEL 4.1 million in an alleged sham tender in 2013 on laying fiber-optic cable.

This so called “cable case” led to first major split within the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition and the firing of then Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, followed by resignations of his two allies from cabinet posts in November, 2014. It resulted in Alasania’s Free Democrats leaving the GD coalition. Alasania has been denouncing charges against the MoD officials as “politically motivated”, which also aimed at targeting him as the Defence Minister.

Along with activists and supporters of the FD party, representatives from other parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition parties were also present, among them from the United National Movement (UNM), New Rights, and the State for the People, a newly launched party led by retired opera singer Paata Burchuladze. Representatives of some civil society groups were also present at the rally.

After being arrested in late October 2014, all five men had spent almost eight months in pre-trial detention before being released in June, 2015. In August 2015, Defence Minister Tina Khidasheli, who is from the Republican Party, reinstated four men to their jobs – two of them served in MoD’s procurements unit and two others in general staff’s communications and IT department. The fifth one – former head of procurements unit – was no longer MoD employee at the time of the arrest in October, 2014.

Irakli Alasania said on May 21 that his party will now start collecting the signatures of citizens on a petition calling for the release of the five men.

“We will then submit this petition to the Georgian President. At this rally outside the prosecutor’s office we protested against injustice, but we will search of justice in the legitimate institution of the presidency,” Alasania said.

The National Forum, party which was a member of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition until recently, called on President Giorgi Margvelashvili to use his pardon power to achieve the release of the former MoD officials.

President Margvelashvili suggested earlier that he will wait for the appellate process before taking any decision over a possible pardon.

“Lawyers are going to appeal the case and I will follow it closely. I don’t want to jump the gun,” the President told journalists on May 18.

Prosecutor’s office denies allegations of politically motivated prosecution as “groundless”. Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze, who briefed Tbilisi-based foreign diplomats about the details of the case on May 19, claimed that political opponents are trying to intentionally mislead the public and discredit the process of the administration of justice by politicizing the case.

Tamaz Mechiauri leaves Georgian Dream party

A member of the parliamentary majority, Tamaz Mechiauri has left the Georgian Dream Democratic Georgia party. This statement was made once the meeting between the PM and Georgian Dream members was over.

According to Mechiauri, he is leaving the party but will remain a member of the Georgian Dream faction and head of the financial-budgetary committee. He says he planned to leave the committee but the faction did not support the decision.

“I will support the majority in basic issues except those that became the reason for misunderstanding between us,” said Mechiauri adding that Georgia's foreign political course was one of them.

According to him, former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili attended the session today and his mood was very positive in relation to his decision.