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Appeal Court to Discuss Zviad Ratiani’s Case without Oral Hearing

25.01.2018

 
Natia Gogolashvili

The Appeal Court is discussing the case of the poet Zviad Ratiani without oral hearing. The trial was scheduled on January 17 but based on the judge’s decision, no more oral hearing will be conducted in the case.

On December 29, 2017, the Tbilisi City Court found Zviad Ratiani guilty in the crimes punishable under the Articles 166 and 173 of the Administrative Code of Georgia and fined him with 2 000 GEL for minor hooliganism and insulting of police officers. The Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) appealed the court decision at the Appeal Court on January 6, 2018.

The defense side, EMC lawyer Ana Nasrashvili protested the decision of the Appeal Court. She said considering the public interest in the case, it is necessary that the Appeal Court conducted oral hearing of Ratiani’s case.

“We believe, with the oral hearing, the court will have more opportunity to hear the positions of the parties and better study factual and legal circumstances of the case, which were improperly and superficially considered by the first instance court,” EMC lawyer Ana Nasrashvili said. 

On December 23, 2017, in the frame of the police control, law enforcement officers arrested poet Zviad Ratiani. He blames the law enforcement officers in physical harassment. MIA states Zviad Ratiani was drunken, resisted and insulted the police officers, hindered their professional activities. The investigative unit of the Tbilisi prosecutor’s office started investigation against concrete police officers of the MIA into alleged abuse of professional power in relation with Zviad Ratiani. 

EMC disseminated a statement, which lists the violations into Zviad Ratiani’s case.

“Zviad Ratiani is speaking about several episodes of his harassment from the side of police officers after detention: in the car after his detention in the Queen Tamar Avenue, on the Mtkvari River Embankment when transporting him from the Old Tbilisi police unit # 5 to the temporary detention setting and in the car, where he spent more than one hour in front of the temporary detention setting (TDS). Medical examinations of Zviad Ratiani when entering and leaving the TDS showed that he had physical injuries in the face and different parts of body; he also had brain concussion,” the statement reads.

It also mentions that during the police control it is obligatory that the police had the surveillance camera on when communicating with citizens. Zviad Ratiani’s lawyer said according to Ratiani’s explanation, the police officers were video-recording some episodes of his arrest by mobile phone and not by the surveillance camera. The mobile phone videos cannot show the entire incident non-stop.

Executive director of Human Rights Center said, the initial statements of the MIA with regard to physical assault and inhuman treatment of the Poet Zviad Ratiani showed that the system traditionally tries to protect the police officers, who participated in the incident. 

“The video-recordings in the personal mobile phones of the police officers have no legal value because they were not recorded by the surveillance cameras of the police officers, which could include the full information about stopping the citizen, talking with him and starting the conflict with him. The MIA is disseminating the videos taken by personal mobile phones of the police officers, which are selected and edited by the police officers according to their desire, in order to convince the society that the citizen is guilty in everything. Let’s forget everything- how Zviad Ratiani received physical injuries? MIA had answer to this question – he was already beaten before detention. Of course, the guilty side always tries to justify itself and mislead the investigation and it is the case here; but unfortunately this time the Ministry of Internal Affairs is the guilty side in this case, whose primary obligation is to arrest offenders and resolve crimes,” Aleko Tskitishvili said.

On December 27, the Public Broadcasting published the video-footage of drunken Zviad Ratiani, which the MIA provided to them. This fact caused protest of writers and poets of Georgia. Part of them demanded resignation of the director general of the Georgian Public Broadcasting Vasil Maglaperidze. 

Nongovernmental organization Media Institute reacted to the dissemination of the video footage about Zviad Ratiani’s detention. Media Institute believes that with the airing of abovementioned footage, the GPB violated the right to privacy, which is guaranteed under the Constitution of Georgia. 

“Media Institute   believes that there was not special public interest in the case of poet Zviad Ratiani, and neglecting the principles of journalistic ethics by the GPB raises doubts that the GPB respected the position of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and tried to hide allegedly unlawful activities of the law enforcement officers. On the other hand, the MIA breached the law of Georgia on personal data protection. The law enforcement officers video-recorded the detention of the citizen by their mobile phone instead the surveillance camera that was their obligation. At the same time, it must be noted that the disseminated video-footage is not complete and does not show the detention moment of the poet,” the statement reads. 

The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics made a statement, which states that the director of the news block of the GPB Giorgi Gvimradze and editor of the website Irina Dekanoidze violated the first (A journalist must have respect for the truth and the right of the public to accurate information) and tenth principles (Journalists and media shall respect the right to privacy of the individual and not interfere into private life if the special public interest is not present) of the Charter.

“In this particular case, the journalist mostly voiced the positions of the interested, partial party of the case and did not describe the evidence provided to the court impartially. For example, the news-story shows the interrogation of the police officer, who states that Ratiani started cursing them as soon as they stopped him. However, the journalist did not clarify that the MIA failed to provide the respective video-proof to the Court. The Council of the Journalistic Ethic Charter concluded that the comments, voices, texts in general shared the position of the MIA and aimed to humiliate Ratiani. In accordance to the Article 131 of the Organic Law of Georgia about Common Courts, the GPB has exclusive right of airing the court hearings. Other broadcasters may video-record the trials when the GPB refused to cover the particular trial. Ratiani’s case hearing was video-recorded by GPB and it was important to impartially and objectively report about it to the society. Considering the abovementioned arguments, the Council of the Charter states that by partial covering of the facts, the GPB did not respect the right of the society to get full and comprehensive information about the case,” the decision of the Charter reads.

Considering the fact that the Appeal Court is reviewing the case of Poet Zviad Ratiani without oral hearing, it is not known yet whether the Appeal Court uphold the decision of the City Court or not. 
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