A judge of Tbilisi City Court, presiding over Rustavi 2 TV ownership dispute case, adjourned hearing until Friday morning.
In a lawsuit, filed in August, Kibar Khalvashi, who was majority shareholder of Rustavi 2 TV in 2004-2006, wants to reclaim ownership of the broadcaster, claiming that he was coerced into selling of the television channel by then leadership of the country in 2006.
Lawyers, representing respondents, Rustavi 2 TV and its current owners, told the judge Tamaz Urtmelidze at a hearing on Thursday that they wanted postponement, citing that they needed more time to prepare their oral arguments after a lengthy questioning of a witness on Wednesday.
Plaintiff’s lawyers were against of postponement of the hearing and accused the respondents of trying to drag out the process.
At a court hearing on October 28 a report on valuation of Rustavi 2 TV shares in 2005-2006 was examined, including through questioning of an expert, who compiled the report. Through this report, which was submitted as a piece of evidence by the plaintiff, Khalvashi tries to show that the price for which he had to sell his shares were in fact far lower than actual value of the assets; through this piece of evidence Khalvashi tries to prove that he would not have sold the broadcaster for the stated price without having been pressured into it.
The valuation, commissioned by the plaintiff, was done by an expert from the Georgian State Forensics Bureau, Shota Ivanashvili, based on inconclusive financial data provided by the plaintiff. The expert told the court that the valuation was done through an asset-based approach as it was more relevant in the condition of scarce financial data. The expert, who compiled the report in September in less than two days, also said that he had not verified authenticity of the provided data as it was not within his competence.
After an almost three-hour long questioning of the expert, lawyers representing Rustavi 2 TV and its current owners sought in vain to exclude the report as invalid evidence on the grounds that it was based on dubious and inconclusive financial data; they also argued that the report was not compiled based on the international valuation standards. The motion was rejected. Paata Salia, a lawyer representing the plaintiff, said that the respondents failed to provide arguments to back their claims that the report was based on fake financial data.
Few hours after the hearing on Wednesday, Rustavi 2 TV head, Nika Gvaramia, accused judge Tamaz Urtmelidze of “depriving us the right to fair trial” and called on the viewers to rally at the broadcaster’s headquarters on Thursday “in defense of the media freedom.” He claimed that the judge was expected to rule in favor of the plaintiff and in addition to order an immediate enforcement of the verdict. Gvaramia also claimed that the riot police was on high alert ready to target the Rustavi 2 TV – allegation denied by the Interior Ministry as “utterly false”, which aimed at “misleading public” and “escalating tension.”