Today, on November 2, the judges of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals, Merab Jorbenadze, Lavrenti Maghlakelidze, and David Mamiseishvili found Nika Gvaramia, the former director of “Rustavi 2” and the founder of “TV Mtavari”, guilty of abuse of power (two episodes – the so-called commercial airtime sale and the so-called vehicle episode). As a final sanction, he was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months imprisonment.
Today’s decision is slightly different from the judgment of the Tbilisi City Court judge – Lasha Chkhikvadze of May 16, 2022, as the appeals court has aggravated the sanctions imposed in relation to the so-called “commercial air-time sale episode” and instead of a fine, Gvaramia was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months imprisonment. Finally, based on the principle of absorption of sentences, the term of a prison sentence was not changed.
Based on the study of the case materials and observation of the court processes, we can conclude that the case is politically motivated. It aims to punish Nika Gvaramia and disrupt the activities of a critical media outlet.
The analytical documents submitted to the court by the Public Defender’s Office, Human Rights Center, and Transparency International Georgia have indicated that the charges were ungrounded. According to the opinions, even a harmful decision made by a director of an enterprise cannot attract criminal liability, but may only in exceptional cases result in corporate legal liability. Other than this, the Public Defender’s Office, as well as the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and Transparency International – Georgia have studied the decision of the Tbilisi City Court of May 16, 2022, after which a number of flaws regarding the principle of legality and substantiation were identified.
The flawed administration of justice significantly affects and degrades the existing media environment and standards of protection of human rights and freedoms in general, further deepening the polarization in the country, as well as contradicting the spirit of the EU’s 12-point requirements and failing to ensure stable democratic development.
The efforts made by international partners over the years to strengthen the judicial system have been significantly damaged by the actions of the members of the clan. Politically motivated cases are one of the indicators of challenges to judicial independence. Similar cases cast a shadow on the judiciary, including impartial judges. Accordingly, we believe that in the future spending the partners’ resources on judges, who in the past have violated human rights, won’t have a positive impact on the development of the judiciary.
Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia)
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)
Human Rights Center
Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC)
Society and Banks
Media Development Foundation
Atlantic Council of Georgia (ACG)