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City court did not return recreation status to Digomi forest-park

02.02.2011

Salome Achba

On January 31 Judge Dimitry Gvritishvili of the Tbilisi City Court did not satisfy the lawsuit of Ana Gabriadze and Caucasian Environmental NGO Network (CENN) where they complained about the changed status of the Digomi forest-park by the Tbilisi City Council.

The court-hearing at the Tbilisi City Court regarding the restoration of recreation function of the Digomi forest-park in Tbilisi started on January 28. The suitor – Ana Gabriadze and CENN requested the court to annul the decision that the Tbilisi City Council made on September 11, 2009. Based on the decision, amendments were introduced for the perspective development plan of the capital; recreation status was removed from the Digomi Forest-Park and it was instead turned into a public-business zone.

At the trial on January 28, Lali Petriashvili, the lawyer of Ana Gabriadze and CENN filed several solicitations; among them, was a request to enclose the journalistic investigation – the documentary film of the Studio “Monitor” in the case materials as a proof.

The documentary film of the “Monitor” confirmed that 8 hectares of territory in the Digomi Forest-Park was shared between the famous members of the ruling party – the National Movement.

Judge Dimitry Gvritishvili declined the solicitation and did not satisfy the request of the defense lawyer.

“In 1998, Ltd “Sani” became owner of the Digomi Forest-Park which contradicted the 1995 resolution of the municipal committee and the 1997 general plan for arrangement of the Digomi Forest-Park. Beginning in 1999, “Sani Ltd” started to sell the territory in parts. In 2003, illegal construction started in the Forest-Park. Afterwards, the city authority realized that illegal construction in the recreation zone could cause serious problems and the city council found a simple solution to the problem – they changed the recreation status into a public-business zone,” said Lali Petriashvili.

So, if recreation status does not allow construction in the Forest-Park territory, after the status was changed, 1 hectare became a zone for extensive construction.

According to the suitors, one more proof, which could be used as a basis to annul the decision of 2009, is the allegation that the city council made the decision through the violation of procedural norms. More precisely, there are no conclusions of the corresponding commissions of the city council though the legislation requests it. The Tbilisi City Council could not provide any conclusions except the conclusions of two commissions. As a rule, they needed the conclusions of at least 5 commissions that could become the basis for the final decision of the council and remove the recreation status of the Digomi Forest-Park.

According to the defendant, the conclusions were prepared in verbal form instead of written, and it was impossible to provide them to the court.

A representative of the City Council said at the trial that land in the Forest-Park was sold before the current government came into office.

“The territory has many owners. The city hall and city council tried to get the land back without breaching the rights of the owners in order to maintain the territory of the forest-park. When we changed the status, we protected the interests of the property owners there,” said a representative of the city council at the trial.

The defendant alleges there is no necessity to annul the decision about status removal. He said removal of the recreation status does not mean that unique trees and plants will be endangered or cut in the forest. If it happens, these actions will be punished under the law.

The defendant side requested to discuss the acceptability of the law suit at the trial. “Administrative law suit can be filed if a normative act damages a suitor personally. In this case, we do not believe that Ana Gabriadze or CENN were damaged by the action,” said the city council representative..

Lawyer Lali Petriashvili replied that the court can discuss an administrative lawsuit if the appealed normative act contradicts the interests of several people.

“In this case, the interests of many people are breached. Every person has the constitutional right to live in a safe and ecologically clean environment. The suitor could be any person who lives in Tbilisi. Besides that, those who live close to the forest-park, are particularly interested in the problem. Suitor Ana Gabriadze is one of them. As for the CENN, they are an environmental organization. We kindly remind you that in accordance with the law, the CENN can sue any normative act and implement its goals envisaged in its statute and in accordance with the national law. As for the direct damage to the suitor, we wonder what the defendant side means by this? Only the trees and plants in the park could be directly damaged and they could not sue the city council,” said Lali Petriashvili.

Judge Dimitry Gvritishvili said they needed more proof. So, the court-hearing was postponed until January 31, and on that day the judge announced the judgment which did not satisfy the requests of the suitors. Ana Gabriadze and CENN intend to appeal the decision to the Appeals Court.

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