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Supreme Court top Chamber to discuss Rustavi 2 case

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, November 24
The Grand Chamber of Georgia’s Supreme Court, composed of nine judges, will discuss the case of the Rustavi 2 private broadcaster, related to the channel’s complicated and lingered ownership issue.

Three judges of the Supreme Court made a decision to hand the notorious case to the Chamber, tasked to discuss most complex cases, on November 21.

The statement came after all previous court verdicts said the channel’s shares must be given back to its ex-owner Kibar Khalvashi, which caused protest and discontent of the current owners. Rustavi 2 current management claimed that the process was “politically motivated.”

Commenting on the recent decision of the three judges of the Supreme Court, General Director of Rustavi 2 Nika Gvaramia said “it was a positive step”, but stressed the three judges could also “provide a fair verdict” but they were “under a very serious pressure”.

Gavaramia stressed that all previous trials revealed that the current Georgian Dream Government, and especially the founder of the Georgian Dream coalition, ex-Prime Minister, billionaire, Bidzina Ivanishvili, wished to “silence the most critical and popular television channel in Georgia”.

He added he hoped the nine judges would act “in line with law, and not discredit the justice system” and provide a fair solution for the case.

Gvaramia stressed that the Rustavi 2 case was a “test for democracy” and urged people to protect the channel.

Representatives of the United National Movement, Free Democrats, Labour Party, New Rights opposition parties, as well as a number of media representatives, say the process has a decidedly political background.

Diplomats operating in Georgia also said they are “closely observing the case, as media-freedom is essential”.

The Government excludes any involvement in the case and stresses it is a business dispute between current and former owners of the TV channel which is “obviously an opposition channel and biased towards the former ruling United National Movement party”.

“The Court makes decisions independently, without any intervention. Let us see what the Grand Chamber decides,” First Deputy Parliament Speaker from the ruling party, Tamar Chugoshvili, commented.

Kibar Khalvashi, who was a co-owner of Rustavi 2 from 2004 to 2006, filed a lawsuit in August 2015 to reclaim his shares in Rustavi 2, saying he was illegally deprived of his company shares under the previous United National Movement (UNM) government, which ran Georgia in 2003-2012.

Rustavi 2 is appealing the decisions made by Tbilisi City Court and Appellate Court on granting 100% of the TV company shares to Khalvashi.

Rustavi 2, the popular channel in Georgia, played an important role during the Rose Revolution in 2003, which ended Eduard Shevardnadze’s leadership.

“Between 2004 and 2012, the ownership of Rustavi 2 changed approximately 20 times, often in controversial deals that had a political flavor involving people with close links to [then] president Mikheil Saakashvili and to officials of the UNM-led government,” earlier research of NGO Transparency International Georgia said.

In its most recent statement, Transparency International Georgia said “the case obviously contains political motives and some judges considering the case were biased”.