UNM activists sentenced to pre-trial detention, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe criticizes continued misuse of pre-trial detentionsOctober 6th, 2015 Georgia | News
UNM Activists Sentenced to Pre-trial Detention as PACE Slams Georgia for Abusing the Practice
Three UNM activists were sentenced to two-months of pre-trial detention in the western Georgian city of Kutaisi today for “hooliganism” allegedly committed while taking part in a rally in support of Rustavi2, Georgia’s most popular TV channel currently facing an aggressive government-backed takeover.
While at a demonstration, Nika Narsia, Mirian Deisadze and Kakha Gabunia engaged in an argument with a Georgian Dream MP David Lortkipanidze who verbally assaulted them (no violence was involved). The sentence – that could lead to a several-year jail term – contrasts with number of documented violent attacks on UNM MPs and leaders in which perpetrators went completely unpunished (In today’s emergency statement UNM published an extensive list of non-investigated violent attacks) and signals deterioration of freedom of expression in Georgia.
Only last Thursday The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly slammed Georgia for frequent abuse of pre-trial detention for political purposes and arresting political leaders and figures in order to “discredit or otherwise neutralize political competitors.”
Resolution on Abuse of Pretrial Detention in States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights was adopted 89 votes to 10 criticizing Turkey, Georgia and Russia.
MPs of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition as well as Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani – who traveled to Strasbourg to lobby against the resolution – denounced the document as “biased.”
In addition to declaring detention of major opposition political figures in Georgia as politically motivated, the Assembly also voiced concern over so-called “forum shopping” by prosecutors – practices aimed at ensuring selection of judges “more likely” to accommodate requests for pre-trial detention.
A possibility for the prosecutors to circumvent time limits for pre-trial detention (such as former defence minister Akhalaia and former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava) as well as pressure on witnesses to testify against third persons (cases of Magnitsky in Russia and former PM Merabishvili in Georgia) is also declared as abuse.
“I was also given specific examples of pressure on judges who refused to order pretrial detention, and of forum shopping techniques designed to ensure that requests for pretrial detention against former officials are decided by judges considered as favourably disposed by the prosecution,” said Pedro Agramunt, PACE rapporteur for the abuse of pre-trial detention and a senator from Spain in a report accompanying the adopted resolution.
He also emphasized that extradition requests for UNM leaders and former officials were denied by judicial authorities in Ukraine, France and Greece, “because they considered the extradition requests as politically motivated”
“I could not help getting the impression that detentions of senior officials of the previous government are part of a bitter campaign by the current authorities against their predecessors,” Mr Agramunt added in the same report.
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