Saakashvili Vetoes Jury Trial-Related Bill
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 23 Apr.'13 / 22:46

President Saakashvili has vetoed an amendment to the code of criminal procedure, which deprives a defendant upper hand in choosing whether to have a trial by jury or a judge, president’s new chief of administration, Ando Barnovi, said on Tuesday.

He said that the President decided to veto the bill as it was restricting defendant’s right.

Also on April 23 president vetoed another bill, envisaging reforming of High Council of Justice.

According to procedures, the Parliament will have to either accept President’s objections or try to override the veto within next 15 days.

The Parliament in which PM Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition holds the majority has once already overridden presidential veto, when Saakashvili returned back to the Parliament bill on amnesty.

Both bills were passed by the Parliament with their final reading on April 5.

The amendment, which gives prosecution upper hand in deciding whether to have a trial by jury or by judge, is related to pending trials into high-profile cases of former or sitting officials, who are President Saakashvili’s allies.

In January, 2013 the Parliament amended the criminal procedures code allowing applying jury trials to those cases in which former or acting officials face criminal charges. At the time UNM lawmakers supported that amendment on the condition that a defendant would have retained advantage in choosing whether to have a trial by jury or a judge.

In early March, during a trial of former defense and interior minister Bacho Akhalaia into multiple criminal changes, which is now ongoing, Akhalaia and other co-defendants made use of an existing provision in the law and made choice in favor of trial by judge; prosecutors wanted the case to be tried by jury.

Argument of lawyers of Akhalaia and other co-defendants in favor of trial by judge was a claim that the current authorities contributed to stirring negative public perception of their clients and there was a high probability of jurors’ preconceived bias against the defendants.

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