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One Year on From Mukhtarli’s Disappearance from Tbilisi

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, May 30
A rally was held in Tbilisi, in front of the State Security Service office of Georgia on Tuesday, to once again protest the disappearance of the investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli from Tbilisi on May 29, 2017.

It was the third rally in support of the journalist who has already been sentenced to six years in Azerbaijan for illegally crossing the border, resistance to police, and smuggling money, which Mukhtarli strongly denies.

Georgia has not yet provided the results of the investigation that would explain how Mukhtarli disappeared from central Tbilisi and re-emerged in Baku the next day, where he was prosecuted for his journalist activities.

One year on after the case the Georgian parliamentary minority is demanding the creation of a parliamentary commission, which will investigate Mukhtarli’s disappearance from Tbilisi, as the country’s law enforcement bodies “fail to do so.”

“There is no argument to why such a parliamentary commission should not be formed,” Elene Khoshtaria from the European Georgia opposition stated.

The Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria has also recommended creating a fact-finding parliamentary commission over Mukhtarli’s case.

Lomjaria says that Mukhtarli's case is “a matter of reputation” and politicians should be more involved in the issue.

"This case is a high-profile case and it is a matter of a reputation of our country. Due to the fact that a year has passed and we still have no answer to the question on how Mukhtarli disappeared and crossed the Georgian-Azerbaijani border, we recommend the Georgian parliament to set up a fact-finding commission”, she said.

The Georgian Dream ruling party representatives dismiss any kind of involvement of the state bodies in Mukhtarli’s disappearance, as Mukhtarli accused the Georgian government of abduction, and say that they are waiting for completion of the investigation.

“As the Georgian law enforcers are still investigating the issue, there is no need of creation a special commission in parliament,” the Georgia Dream member Archil Talakvadze stated.

Mukhtarli claims he was abducted from Tbilisi for his investigations about top figures of Azerbaijan, their businesses in Georgia and connections with the Georgian government.

Mukhtarli’s wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, who is also an investigative journalist, stated that his husband’s verdict was part of a “joint deal” between the Georgian and Azerbaijani leaderships.

The US President Donald Trump’s administration, the EU, OSCE and other foreign organizations have demanded the release of the journalist.

The 2018 Freedom House report claimed the Georgia’s judicial framework and independence had declined, due to the ‘illegal deportation of dissident Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli to Azerbaijan and a high-profile case in which a foreign company faced punitive fines after a deeply flawed judicial process’.