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Detained activists in pre-trial facility

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, February 15
A total of 13 activists of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party, detained for hooliganism and resistance to police officers during a rally, were taken to a pre-trial detention facility until a court hearing was held.

The protesters demanded a meeting with Tbilisi Mayor Davit Narmania, and tried to enter the city hall building, but were blocked by security. There was then a verbal and physical confrontation between protesters and security staff.

The UNM and its activists protested that an alleged corrupt deal between Appeals Court judge Nata Nazgaidze and the government was made, and claimed that the Mayor’s Office illegally paid 1 million GEL to the judge’s family, which, as they say, was a “reward” for Nazgaidze’s ruling against the current owners of Rustavi 2 TV in the ownership dispute.

UNM leader Nika Melia says the government took all measures to disperse the rally.

“The government will not be able to stop the protest because we are dealing with an unprecedented situation, when millions are paid from the city budget," he stressed, adding the rallies would continue until the Mayor makes proper explanations.

Another member of the UNM, Roman Gotsiridze, says the protest is a fight for freedom of speech and a fight against corruption.

“We should not return Georgia to a time when the country was ruled by corrupt officials and criminals. We will defend Rustavi 2 until the end and we will protect the people who were unfairly, arbitrarily detained," he said.

Former member of the UNM and one of the founders of the Movement for Freedom-European Georgia, Gigi Ugulava, commented on the detention of the UNM supporters in a Facebook post.

Ugulava believes that the authorities want to seize Rustavi 2 and ruin the court system. Moreover, he says that civil turmoil was also caused by the government, accusing them of using budgetary funds for paying bribes.

“The most disgusting thing is the detention of activists. Free the people detained at the City Hall,” Ugulava’s post reads.

Despite the demand of the opposition parties, Tbilisi's Mayor did not make any comments over the incident.

However, a statement was released by City Hall which says the UNM is deliberately escalating the situation and is trying to mislead population.

“The Mayor’s Office acted within the law, and if these people have any additional questions, they may apply to the courts,” the statement reads.

The Rustavi 2 TV ownership dispute started in 2015, when the channel’s former co-owner, Kibar Khalvashi, filed a lawsuit in August, to reclaim his shares in Rustavi 2, saying he was illegally deprived of his company shares under the previous UNM government.

Since then, all court verdicts said the channel’s shares had to be given back to Khalvashi, until November 21, when three judges of the Supreme Court made a decision to hand the notorious case to the Grand Chamber, tasked with discussing most complex cases.

Rustavi 2 reported last week that the brother of the Appeals Court Judge, Nata Nazgaidze, who was discussing Rustavi 2 dispute and assigned the broadcaster to Khalvashi, received 1 million Gel from the state budget for the land that was devastated due to the June 13, 2015 flood in Tbilisi. However, the opposition says at that time the property was in the Bank of Georgia’s ownership, and also no one but Nazgaidze was given such compensation for land without any real estate on it.

The opposition parties have many questions over the alleged corrupt deal, saying the Prosecutor’s Office should investigate the case and reveal the truth.

The judge denies all the allegations.