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One More Political Prisoner

Ana Sheshaberidze

Human Rights Commission of the Conservative Party granted status of political prisoner to the coordinator of the Kakheti region office of the Republic Party Merab Katamadze. Several non-governmental organizations and opposition parties are members of the human rights commission. Among them is the Human Rights Center.

Merab Katamadze was single mandate candidate of Akhmeta district during parliamentary elections of May 21, 2008. He was rival of the current leader of the parliamentary majority Petre Tsiskarishvili in the district.

Facts of intimidation on politically active people, members and activities of various opposition parties have increased in the capital and in the regions. They are detained for illegal possession of weapon or for drug-addiction. Merab Katamadze was accused for similar crimes. He was detained in the evening of June 27, 2009. He was accused under Article 236, Part I and II which envisages liability for illegal purchase, storage and possession of weapon and explosives.

The court bailed him with 5 thousand GEL.

Katamadze was detained through procedural violation. During detention the policemen did not introduce themselves to the detainee and did not clarify the motive of detention. They seized key from him and did not allow him to call the attorney. The policemen did not search him and change motive of his detention three times. Initially they were told a car-crash had happened by his car; then they said they had discovered weapon in his car; finally the investigation drew up a protocol where he wrote that a pistol was withdrawn from his back pocket of the jeans.

Dactiloscope expertise was not done on the gun. The only evidence in the case materials is testimonies of the policemen and the gun. Furthermore, Merab Katamadze owns two legally registered guns and he can even carry them.

Merab Katamadze explained his detention by his political activities. He is member of national committee of the Republic Party. According to the party, he is editor of the leaf-let “Republicans” and their coordinator in Kakheti region. He was single mandate candidate of Akhmeta district. “My detention is connected with my political activities. I am member of national committee of the Republic Party; I was regional coordinator of the party. It turned out to be enough ground for my imprisonment,” said Merab Katamadze.

In parallel to it, Merab Katamadze is a famous publisher. He was running publishing house “Azri” and association of book publishers for many years. He is initiator of the Tbilisi international book festival. He was giving lectures on book publishing at many universities. Thus, detention of Merab Katamadze was very resonant fact among intellectuals and many of them protested the detention. It was clear from the very beginning that it will be difficult for prosecutor’s office to find him guilty. So, soon Katamadze was released under bail of 5 000 GEL. It means the investigation still continues.

The commission of the Conservative Party declared Merab Katamadze to be political prisoner. The commission makes similar decision if: the law about detention or pretrial detention is breached; if the guiltiness of the detainee is not confirmed and the charge is not compliant to the committed crime and simultaneously all these violations are caused by political motives.

Consequently, Merab Katamadze was declared to be a political prisoner. On June 27 Merab Katamadze was detained near the central office of the Republic Party in Griboedov Street in Tbilisi.

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