Tbilisi-based legal advocacy and rights watchdog group, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) said that its monitoring and examination of court hearing and subsequent decisions showed there was nothing to suggest that court’s ruling ordering pre-trial detention for ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili in absentia was either unjustified or in violation of law.
In a lengthy statement on August 8 GYLA laid out arguments and courter-arguments of prosecution and defense voiced during the hearing of prosecutors’ motion asking the Tbilisi City Court to order pre-trial detention for Saakashvili. Without entering into the substance of the case, such hearings are designed to only decide about whether there is enough ground for imposing preventive measure against an accused person. GYLA said that as far as it has no access to the case file, it is not in a position to determine how justified the indictment itself against Saakashvili is.
“It is beyond doubt that the case against ex-president is of political significance… Although Prosecutor’s Office has no such obligation under the law, but taking into view high public interest, GYLA considers it appropriate for the Prosecutor’s Office to make public all the evidence which prosecution’s case is based on,” GYLA said, adding that making public of the case file would allow the public and all the interested groups to assess the case.
During the hearing, which started on the evening of August 1 and ended after midnight, prosecutors argued that Saakashvili has been repeatedly avoiding cooperation with investigation and the prosecution was left with no other option than to ask for his pre-trial detention in absentia. Saakashvili was first summoned by prosecutor’s office for questioning in March and was also offered interrogation via video link, but he declined. Prosecutor also argued that Saakashvili possesses both financial means and influence to exert pressure on witnesses. He also claimed that Saakashvili and other co-accused former high-ranking officials who remain at large, Adeishvili and Kezerashvili, “acted in concert” in committing the crime incriminated against them and there is a risk that they will continue coordination with each other to exert influence on or conspire with witnesses with the purpose of obstructing investigation.
Saakashvili’s defense argued that charges against the ex-president are purely politically motivated. The defense was citing statements of Georgia’s Western partners expressing concerns over bringing criminal charges against Saakashvili. The defense also claimed that the case is mainly built on witness testimony of Nino Burjanadze, who was parliamentary chairperson in 2007. But the court accepted prosecution’s arguments and ruled that there were five witnesses in the case directly implicating the accused of allegedly committing a crime incriminated against him and there were enough grounds for imposing preventive measure against Saakashvili in a form of pre-trial detention.
The ruling was taken by defense lawyers to the Court of Appeals, but it was rejected as inadmissible.
GYLA said that as a result of examination, it found no evidence suggesting that court’s ruling on pre-trial detention was either unjustified or that it violated rights and principles upheld by the Georgian constitution.
“The fact that the court accepted prosecutor’s above mentioned arguments does not provide basis to claim that the court’s decision was determined by unlawful and political motives. From the legal point of view, the fact that the court was hearing the case of ex-president and not of any other ordinary citizen does not authorizes the court to demand in the process of ordering pre-trial detention standard of proof different from existing court practice as envisaged by the legislation,” GYLA said.