05:56, Saturday, 26.09.2020
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“It’s Easy to Charge People Like Us”

A three year sentence for attempting to steal a puppy

“My son was charged because we are poor and it is easier to charge us for something. The investigation was led into our direction on purpose,” - said Marina Qamadadze with tears in her eyes, speaking in a Russian-Georgian accent. Her son Malkhaz Qamadadze was charged for attempting to steal a Caucasian puppy. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment and a fine of two thousand lari on 7 August by Batumi Municipal Court judge Nino Vashakmadze. The owners of the puppy are family members of Irakli Tavartkiladze’s, who was the mayor at that time. The former mayor’s father, Teimuraz Tavartqiladze, is considered to be a victim in the case.

Qamadadze was defended by a Paata Bolqvadze, an attorney of fiscal law. The attorney was asking for a not guilty verdict, but the judge did not permit his evidence: “The father and his son were the only ones providing evidence. The victim, Teimuraz Tavartqiladz,e announced during the court’s investigation that he could not recognize the criminal. He also stated that Irakli Tavartqiladze only left the room in response to him calling Irakli, so it is known that Irakli Tavartqiladze did not even see a criminal”.

Public prosecutor Elizbar Gozalishvili answered the lawyer’s statement with the remark: “The victim’s explanation that no one could have seen the criminal besides him is not reliable. There is a witness who says that he saw the criminal”.

It is unclear why the witness’s and not victim’s explanation is considered to be reliable. Is it because the witness was the mayor at that time?

In the so-called “Chaobi” district we asked some local people for the address of Qamadadze’s family. Everyone who knew Qamadadze responded to us with a troubled face: “He is pitiful, he was put in prison for nothing, he did not commit any crime.”
A middle-aged lady came out into the yard of a one-room house on Sevastopol Street. The brother of the arrested Malkhazi, 17 year-old Giorgi, was in but he felt shy and left. The prisoner’s mother Marina began to clear the table and was worried, “we were having a dinner” – she told us, “and there were only fish bones…”

According to Malkhazi’s mother, before the arrest he was the only one who brought money home – he worked with “mazut”(black) oil in the bakery on the same street: “They gave him 150 lari, he was delivering the bread also. Now the only source of income is Giorgi’s pension, he is a minor and is receiving a 38 lari pension because of his father death. He will only receive this money for a year. Sometimes I also earn some money – I go to the flats to wash and clean, they give me 2 or 3 lari. I do not receive any aid. I requested social workers to come and see how we live, but they ignored me.

The mother describes the arrest of her son in this way:

“On 17 January, three policeman came to us in the morning, I was tidying up mattresses, Malkhazi was still in his bed. They lied to us, told us they were going to close some old case and took him away. I have not seen him since. I cannot go to the prison. My heart is aching, because he is being punished for a crime he did not commit.” Malkhazi’s aunt has the right to visit him.

Malkhazi was convicted for stealing before. A few years ago he served an 8 month sentence in Geguti. Malkhazi’s mother thinks that law enforcement authorities have other reasons for arresting her son:
“At first they arrested another boy, Eduard Miqeladze, for stealing the puppy. But they let him out, because they could not prove anything. After that, the policemen came to Malkhazi, because they could not arrest anyone. We do not have anyone who takes care of us and we are poor, it is easy to charge people like us, no one was able to help us”.

According to Mrs. Marina, Malkhazi wanted to appeal the verdict: “He sent me a letter. He wanted to appeal, but he is also scared this will lead to a longer sentence. Anything is possible in this country.”

The Human Rights Center has tried to verify at the Batumi Municipal Court whether Malkhazi appealed to the verdict and with whose assistance he would have done so, seeing his attorney, Paata Bolqvadze, refused to defend him any longer (there had been a misunderstanding).

The assistant of judge Nino Vashakmadze, Mzia Tsenteradze, first referred us to the court’s office for an answer to this question, but then when she called her boss she was instructed not to talk to the representative of the Human Rights Center on that issue.

Maka Malakmadze, Batumi.

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