While Georgian Dream parliamentary (GD) majority is determined to override presidential veto on judicial council bill, it has yet to be seen how it will act in respect of another vetoed bill related to restricting defendant’s right in choosing between trial by jury or a judge.
GD parliamentary majority group is still discussing the issue and no final decision is yet made how it will react to presidential veto on jury trial-related bill, MP Zakaria Kutsnashvili, who chairs parliamentary faction Georgian Dream, told Civil.ge on April 25.
MP Vakhtang Khmaladze, who chairs parliamentary committee for legal affairs, said he did not vote for this government-proposed bill when it was passed by the Parliament earlier this month because he’s against of jury trial system in general. He told Civil.ge on April 25 that the parliamentary majority group would take final decision on how to react to presidential veto after discussions within the group.
Parliamentary chairman, Davit Usupashvili, who, like MP Khmaladze, is from the Republican Party, said on April 24 that he did not vote for the bill either when it was passed by the Parliament. He, however, also added while speaking to Kavkasia TV: “I may vote in favor of overriding the veto.”
Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, uniting over thirty non-governmental, business associations and media organizations, released on April 25 a statement calling on the Parliament to continue working on the jury trial-related bill in order to provide a proper balance between prosecution and defense.
89 votes are required for overturning presidential veto. GD has 83 MPs, but can count on support of those lawmakers who have quit UNM parliamentary minority group, like it has once already happened when the Parliament overturned presidential veto on amnesty bill four months ago.
Parliament passed 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, on April 5.
The amendment, which gives prosecution advantage in deciding whether to have a trial by jury or 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.