(UPDATE: adds Tbilisi City Court’s statement on reasons behind its decision in the ninth paragraph)
Tbilisi City Court turned down on May 15 prosecution’s motion for sending former first deputy interior minister, Gela Khvedelidze, to pretrial detention and ordered his release on GEL 5,000 bail.
Khvedelidze has been charged with breach of privacy rights in connection to the case involving leak of a secretly recorded threesome sex video, which purportedly featured a man who has recently been fiercely criticizing some senior officials, including Khvedelidze.
Prosecution says that Khvedelidze released the video, which was obtained through illegal surveillance by the previous leadership of the Interior Ministry, with a purpose of a personal “revenge” against the man, who has been recently leveling allegations against him.
Kakha Sopromadze, defense lawyer of Khvedelidze, told journalists on May 15 that his client pleaded guilty.
The video in question was leaked on the internet in early May. One of the two men in the video was identified as the person previously affiliated with Tbilisi-based Obieqtivi media outlet and was an activist with Georgian Dream coalition in the past, who has claimed for number of times recently that PM Ivanishvili’s close adviser Gia Khukhashvili, deputy interior minister Gela Khvedelidze and deputy chief prosecutor Lasha Natsvlishvili managed to take control over businesses, which previously were controlled by the previous government. The man welcomed initiating criminal proceedings against Khvedelidze, but called for further investigation into the case and suspending deputy chief prosecutor Natsvlishvili from office in order not to secure objective probe.
These allegations against Khukhashvili and Natsvlishvili were further fueled by a secretly recorded audio recording, which emerged after Khvedelidze’s arrest. The audio recording purportedly features Khvedelidze allegedly telling his two interlocutors that PM’s adviser Khukhashvili was trying to take over egg import business and to “kill” domestic egg production. The recording was obtained and released by editor of Kronika Plus newspaper Eliso Kiladze, who has called for suspending Natsvlishvili from office pending investigation.
When during his monthly press conference on May 14, PM Ivanishvili was asked if he thought that Natsvlishvili should be suspended from office pending investigation, the Prime Minister responded that there were no credible evidence whatsoever presented so far that would substantiate allegations against Natsvlishvili and Khukhashvili. When a Rustavi 2 TV journalist told him that there was an audio recording available, PM downplayed it and suggested it was not credible evidence; visibly annoyed by journalist’s question, Ivanishvili also said: “It’s not up to journalists to decide who should resign… Some journalists are trying – and the United National Movement fuels it – to portray some [allegations] as facts enough to dismiss someone… When you ask whether Natsvlishvili should resign or not, you tell me, why should he resign?.. Why he should resign, because Eliso Kiladze wants so?.. You are not a postman, when you ask this question you are not a prompter… When you ask a question you should have a reason for that… It’s up to the investigation to establish [facts].”
Khvedelidze has been charged under third part of article 157 of the criminal code, which deals with "illegal use of private or family secrete and/or its distribution” by a person who was authorized to secure secrecy of such information. The charges carry either financial penalty or imprisonment for three years.
The Tbilisi City Court said that judge ruled in favor of bail because charges brought against the accused were falling under the category of “less grave crimes”; it also said that the accused had no previous crime record and the prosecution failed to justify sufficiently need for sending Khvedelidze to pretrial detention.
A preliminary hearing on the merits of the criminal case against Khvedelidze is scheduled for July 2.
The prosecutor’s office said it would appeal Tbilisi City Court’s decision on releasing Khvedelidze on bail to higher court.