A group of people, some holding Georgian Dream coalition’s flags, gathered outside the court building in the town of Akhaltsikhe, Samtskhe-Javakheti region, on July 5 to protest acquittal by the local court of five former police officers who were facing multiple charges into alleged cases of inhuman treatment of detainees.
Former chief of police in Borjomi, town in Samtskhe-Javakheti region, Mamuka Khvedeliani, was arrested in November, 2012 and accused of ordering his subordinates to rape a detainee with chair leg in January, 2009. He and some of his former subordinates were also facing charges in connection to alleged case of illegal detention and beating of three opposition activists on May 27, 2011.
On July 3, 2013 court in Akhaltsikhe delivered not-guilty verdict and five former police officers were released from the courtroom.
Protesters outside the court on July 5 were calling for putting Khvedeliani and four of his former subordinates behind the bars and were slamming judge Gocha Jeiranashvili, who presided over the trial. Reports say that protesters threw eggs and tomatoes at the court building.
Supreme Court chairman, Kote Kublashvili, said that stones were also tossed, which shattered a window of the court building causing injury of a court employee. Kublashvili criticized the police for being late to intervene and called on the law enforcement officers to investigate the stone-throwing incident. The Interior Ministry said that investigation was launched into damage of property. The ministry said in a statement on July 5, that everyone involved in the incident would be held responsible.
The case also sparked exchange of accusations between the prosecutor’s office and the court. The prosecutor’s office said in a statement on July 4 that the not-guilty verdict was delivered contrary to multiple evidence, involving forensic examinations, statements from victims and witnesses, “substantiating” charges against former police officers. But the Supreme Court said in a statement that the prosecution failed to substantiate its charges beyond reasonable doubt and pieces of evidence provided by the prosecution were “often” inconsistent with victims’ statements.
The prosecutor’s office claimed that few days before the verdict was delivered, the presiding judge met “informally” with a prosecutor and “advised” the latter to strike a plea bargaining deal with the accused men. The Supreme Court denied it as “false” and accused the prosecutor’s office of trying “to discredit” the judiciary. The court also said in a statement that it was the prosecutor who approached the judge, not vice versa, to discuss potential plea bargaining.
Commenting on the protest rally outside the court on July 5, the chairman of Supreme Court said that rallies and chanting protest slogans would not change the court verdict.
“The only way to challenge the court verdict is to appeal it to higher court… and to appeal it by presenting at least some evidence… otherwise the verdict will be the same as it was in the court of first instance,” Kote Kublashvili said.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, Khatuna Paichadze, told Civil.ge on July 5 that prosecutors will decide about appealing the higher court after the court in Akhaltsikhe submits written justification of the verdict, which should be done within two weeks.
Mamuka Khvedeliani, who served as police chief in Borjomi since 2005 before early 2012, was UNM’s majoritarian MP candidate in Borjomi, where he lost the race in October, 2012 parliamentary elections to a Georgian Dream’s candidate after garnering 36.5% of votes. After serving as the police chief, Khvedeliani became head (gamgebeli) of the Borjomi municipality in February, 2012.