President Giorgi Margvelashvili pardoned on January 27 five former MoD officials convicted for exceeding official powers in the so called ‘cable case.’
Pikria Chikhradze, Margvelashvili’s political secretary, stated that the President was observing the ‘cable case’ for its entire duration and added that “the preemptive assessments” voiced by politicians “aggravated the state of affairs and produced questions on selective justice and politically motivated prosecution.”
“The prosecution failed to adequately justify the charges at all stages of the process, which prompted harsh assessments both in the Georgian and international communities. Therefore, the President decided to pardon these individuals,” Chikhradze noted.
Presidential pardon comes a day after the Court of Appeals of Tbilisi re-qualified the embezzlement charges of five former Defense Ministry officials and found them guilty of exceeding official powers, reducing their seven-year prison term to one year and six months.
One former and four serving officials from MoD and general staff were arrested on October 28, 2014 and charged with misspending GEL 4.1 million in an alleged sham tender in 2013 on laying fiber-optic cable.
The so called “cable case” led to the split within the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition and the firing of Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, followed by resignations of his two allies from cabinet posts. It resulted in Alasania’s Free Democrats leaving the GD coalition in November, 2014. Alasania was denouncing investigation against the MoD officials as “politically motivated”.
All five men spent almost eight months in pre-trial detention before being released in June, 2015 after the prosecution dropped its objection against their release. Later, the Defense Ministry reinstated them to their jobs, upon decision of then Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli, though the trial into the case was still underway. In May 2016, Tbilisi City Court found five men guilty of misspending and sentenced them to seven-year prison term, prompting protests of opposition and civil society groups, who slammed the ruling as “unfair, illegal and unjustified.”
“The cable case” is the second high-profile case, where embezzlement charges were removed. Ex-mayor of Tbilisi and one of the former leaders of the United National Movement, Gigi Ugulava, was released from prison on January 6, following Tbilisi Court of Appeal’s ruling, which reduced his sentence by three years and three months and re-qualified his embezzlement charges to exceeding official powers.