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Fiasco of Reformed Court

09.01.2009
Prosecutor announced court decision before judge

Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

Lia Otarashvili, judge at Gurjaani district court, completely satisfied the solicitation of the prosecutor’s office and 22-year-old Bidzina Sepiashvili, champion of Georgia in boxing and 19-year-old Spartak Saltkhutsishvili, football player, were sentenced to two-month pre-trial detention. Although attorneys requested bail and personal warranty instead of imprisonment of the detainees, representatives of NGOs and journalists were informed by Prosecutor Giorgi Kokiashvili in advance that the court was going to impose two-month imprisonment on young people.

Gurjaani Prosecutor’s Office blames Sepiashvili and Saltkhutsishvili for organized attack on policeman. “On January 4 2009 junior lieutenant Davit Khizanishvili and Colonel Nugzar Menteshashvili from Gurjaani district police department, were patrolling near so-called “Grandfather’s Garden” in Gurjaani. They were in police uniforms. At 7:00 pm drunken Bidzina Sepiashvili, Spartak Saltkhutsishvili and Giorgi Otiashvili were walking along the street opposite the bus stop where the patrol policemen were standing. The young men decided to interfere in the activities of policemen who were preserving public order in the town and approached them. Bidzina Sepiashvili slapped policeman Davit Khizanishvili and cursed him. The policeman tried to pay back to abuser but Spartak Saltkhutsishvili assisted his friend and he also started to beat Khizanishvili. The law enforcer tried to escape attackers but drunken young men continued beating him. Nugzar Menteshashvili reminded the abusers that they were law enforcers but they did not listen to them. Consequently, Davit Khizanishvili received injuries and had his uniform torn.

The incident lasted for 10-15 minutes; soon patrol policemen arrived at the place and incident was resolved,” said Vakhtang Ruadze, detective-investigator of Gurjaani district police department.

In fact, witnesses claim that two policemen were not on the place; furthermore, the law enforcer was not insulted or beaten. Bidzina Sepiashvili had an ordinary disagreement with Davit Khizanishvili, a resident of Kvareli and police inspector of the village of Velistsikhe, in Gurjaani district. The policeman was standing at the bus stop. Witnesses state that Khizanishvili was speaking on the mobile phone with his wife and was holding a cake in the second hand. Witnesses also claim that although Khizanishvili was wearing police uniform he was not patrolling. According to one of the versions of incident, Davit Khizanishvili was standing at the bus stop waiting for a car which could give him a lift to the village. Witnesses prefer to keep their names anonymous because, Soso Martashvili, head of Gurjaani police department, has threatened them with creating serious problems if they make testimonies to the court. 

The investigation has interrogated only Giorgi Otiashvili, a friend of detainees, and policeman Nugzar Menteshashvili. Reportedly, investigator Marina Potskhverashvili questioned Otiashvili. The investigator wrote the testimony herself and then made the witness to sign it. Otherwise, Otiashvili was threatened to be found suspect and detained. Nobody makes comments regarding these facts at Gurjaani police department and district prosecutor’s office.

Vakhtang Ruadze, the investigator charged Bidzina Sepiashvili and Spartak Saltkhutsishvili under Part II of Article 353 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. The prosecutor agreed with the charge. The prosecutor petitioned for two months pre-trial imprisonment. The ground for this petition was possibility of coercion on witnesses from the accused side, hiding or continuing their illegal activities.

Lola Tusashvili, the attorney of Bidzina Sepiashvili states that the action of her client is incompatible with the crime described in Article 353 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. “This article envisages punishment for the resistance against a police officer or a governmental official when the resistance aims at obstructing officers while providing public order; at preventing or alerting the course of his/her activities; also to force governmental official to commit illegality under force or threat. In this case Davit Khizanishvili, the inspector of Velistsikhe village, was not implementing his professional responsibilities or providing public order at the place of incident. It is not indicated in the case materials what he actually was doing on the place. I think the verdict on imprisonment was a strict penalty for Bidzina Sepiashvili. The prosecutor could not provide any allegations, in particular why Sepiashvili should hide if he is released and why he would obstruct the investigation and etc. Sepiashvili is a champion of Georgia in boxing. He is a university graduate and he also cooperates with the investigation. He admits that he had an argument with the police but he denies the fact of attacking at police officers,” said the attorney.

The representatives of the Human Rights Center as well as other NGOs attended the trial. They said Giorgi Kokiashvili, had announced the court verdict before the judge filed the verdict. The associates of the detainees confirm this information.

How did the prosecutor know that the Judge Otarashvili would satisfy the prosecutor’s motion completely? Neither Kokiashvili nor Gela Lazashvili, the Gurjaani District Prosecutor comments on this.

Lola Tusashvili, the attorney stated they do not intend to appeal against the verdict of Gurjaani District Court at Tbilisi Court of Appeals. She said there is no point in appealing against the court verdict because the prosecutor will not change his position. According to out information parents of detainees were warned by the officials from the prosecutor’s office to avoid extra fuss about the case if they wanted the detainees be released through plea bargain they must not make much fuss out of this case. It is noteworthy that the Martashvili, the head of Gurjaani Police Department was very irritated with the fact that journalists expressed their interest in this case. He warned the journalists that if they do not stop working on this case drugs would be planted not only on them but also on their family members. 

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