A group of civil society organizations have called on the authorities to immediately probe into allegations that pressure was exerted on the Tbilisi City Court judge while deciding in favor of prosecution’s motion to suspend Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava from office pending trial into charges against him.
Ugulava claimed on Saturday and then again on Sunday – before and after the court’s ruling, that head of the Interior Ministry’s internal investigations unit, Zviad Jankarashvili, was personally involved in mounting pressure on the leadership of the Tbilisi City Court.
“For years there have been numerous attempts of pressuring judiciary by the law enforcement agencies, which affected quality and development trends of the justice [system]. There has been certain improvement in this regard after the [October, 2012] parliamentary elections, but it is obvious that the situation is fragile and not sustainable. Any kind of attempt to meddle into judiciary is especially dangerous in such a situation. For that very reasons it is of critical importance to study immediately and properly all the facts which might be indicating on possible infringement of judiciary’s independence,” a group of non-governmental organizations said in their joint statement on December 22.
It is signed by Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy; Transparency International Georgia; Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center; Georgian Democracy Initiative and the Georgian Bar Association.
Judge of the Tbilisi City Court, Dali Metreveli, ruled in favor of the prosecution’s motion without hearing oral arguments of the parties. The statement by the rights groups says that although the court was authorized by the law to take the decision through such proceeding, it would have been better if the judge opted for public hearing because the case concerns directly elected mayor of the capital city and because of high public interest towards the case.
UNM opposition party in which Ugulava is one of the key figures has also called on the authorities to immediately launch investigation into alleged pressure on the judiciary. UNM has also called for convening a joint session of parliamentary committees on legal issues and human rights to discuss the issue.