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Court Does Not Discuss the Case on Dispersal of Journalists

June 19, 2009

                                                                  Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

On June 14, President Mikheil Saakashvili met the parliamentary majority. During the meeting the president reproached law enforcers who prevented journalists from their professional activities and required to protect the rights of journalists. After the president’s speech some officials apologized for having abused journalists and others. The Ministry of  Internal Affairs fired three policemen for assaulting the journalists. Although preventing journalists from their professional activities is considered a crime, not a single policeman was charged up to now.

One of well-known facts of journalists’ dispersal during Saakashvili’s government occurred in Signagi district on June 15, 2006. The journalists who were going to Signagi to cover the protest rally arranged by NGOs were delayed by the police officers for the reason to check their cars. At the same time, members of the Signagi HQ for the National Party attacked the journalists, destroyed their cameras and carried out a physical assault on them. The journalists were injured. Policemen from Sighnaghi district also participated in the dispersal.

On the same day, Sighnaghi district prosecutor’s office arrested only three people for dispersing the demonstrators; the detainees were Jemal Demetrashvili, councilor of the village of Vakiri, Ioseb Nanobashvili, member of the village council of Vakiri village and Vasil Munjishvili, activist of the National Movement.

Sighnaghi district prosecutor’s office charged the detainees under Article 239, Part II-“a” (organized hooliganism) and Article 187, Part I (damage of other person’s property). Although the detainees do not plead guilty and threatened the victims, the court released them under bail and they are still free.

The victimized journalists appealed to the prosecutor’s office several times and demanded to interrogate MP Nugzar Abulashvili from Sighnaghi district; though in vain. Despite several testimonies where the victimized people and witnesses accused the MP for organizing the dispersal, the investigation did not interrogate MP Abulashvili.

The appeal has been sent to the Sighnaghi district court for four years already but the judge Kikilashvili does not discuss it. Nana Vasadze, spokesperson of the Supreme Court of Georgia, clarified that district court had much more important cases to discuss.

-Why does the court consider the dispersal of journalists as less important or completely unimportant?

-Sighnaghi district court had many appeals to discuss during the last three years. So, they could not discuss your appeal until now because of that reason,” said Vasadze.

The attorneys of the journalists dispersed by law enforcers and governmental officials explain the negligence of the court in different way.

“The Court does not discuss this case in order not to create problems of Abulashvili. The victimized people have evidence which will prove that the MP had organized the dispersal”, said lawyer Lia Khuroshvili.

Sighnaghi district court prolongs the discussion of one more criminal case. In this case Nugzar Abulashvili is blamed for extorting money from citizen.