Parliament passed on April 2 with 72 votes to 29 with its first reading a legislative amendment, which, after it is finally approved, will allow prosecutors to bring criminal charges against lawmaker from the UNM parliamentary minority group Roland Akhalaia.
Prosecutor’s Office requested last month for Parliament’s permission to bring criminal charges of “exceeding official powers” against MP Akhalaia in the case related to the latter’s tenure as chief prosecutor of Samegrelo region in 2009; MP Akhalaia, who is a majoritarian MP from Zugdidi constituency, denies charges as fabricated.
Prosecutors filed a request with the Parliament based on a requirement envisaged by legislative amendment made into the criminal procedure code in 2010. But conflict of provisions in the legislation made it impossible for the Parliament to either reject or approve prosecutor’s request.
In a move to restrict lawmakers’ immunity, the Parliament amended in 2004 constitution amendment upon then ruling UNM party’s initiative by removing a provision requiring prosecutors to seek legislative body’s permission for bringing criminal charges against MP; other relevant laws were also then amended to put them in line with the constitutional changes. But in 2010 the Parliament amended criminal procedure code by including a provision obligating prosecutors to seek legislative body’s permission for pressing criminal charges against a lawmaker although no such requirement was envisaged by the constitution; neither the parliamentary regulations envisage procedures how the Parliament should act in case of prosecutors’ request.
The parliamentary regulations sets procedures on how to give consent only when prosecution wants to either arrest a lawmaker or to search lawmaker and his or her property. According to the constitution parliament’s approval is required when prosecutors want to either arrest or search a member of parliament. The prosecution has not requested for these procedures in respect of MP Roland Akhalaia.
After the prosecutor’s office asked the Parliament for permission to file criminal charges against MP Akhalaia, Georgian Dream parliamentary majority opted to address conflicting provisions by removing a clause from criminal procedure code, which was introduced in 2010. GD lawmakers say that amending parliamentary regulation to prescribe procedures for allowing prosecutors to launch criminal proceedings against MP will fail to redress existing conflict of provisions as constitution does not at all require the need for such parliamentary approval.
UNM lawmakers, who are strongly against of the proposed amendment, argued that the 2010 amendment is not in conflict with the constitution and the provision should remain in the criminal procedure code. UNM lawmaker, Pavle Kublashvili, said that with this change the parliamentary majority is “opening door for prosecutors to further step up persecution” of opponents.
UNM parliamentary minority leader, MP Davit Bakradze, said that this amendment will give prosecutor’s office, which “is already out of parliamentary oversight”, a lever to “control” the legislative body.
In a statement read out at the parliamentary session MP Akhalaia said that “state terror reins in the country.”
“The entire state machinery is directed towards repressing my family,” he said.
Roland Akhalaia is father of former defense minister Bacho Akhalaia, who remains behind bars since November, 2012; Bacho Akhalaia was acquitted in two trials and found guilty in the third one, but pardoned last year by then president Mikheil Saakashvili; several trials into some other charges against Bacho Akhalaia, who remains in pretrial detention, are still pending.
Roland Akhalaia’s other son, former senior interior ministry official, Data Akhalaia, was found guilty by the Tbilisi City Court of exceeding official authority in a case related to beating of policemen in 2005 and sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in jail in absentia; Data Akhalaia remains at large.