Peace Consulting

Georgia: Appeals Court of Tbilisi Upholds Imprisonment for Opposition Journalist, Nika Gvaramia, a former Justice Minister

By <b><br>Dr Marta Katz-Turi</b>

Dr Marta Katz-Turi

The Tbilisi Court of Appeals ruled on November 2 that the judgement by a lower court in May 2022, to sentence Gvaramia to 3 ½ years in prison, was upheld under Article 220 of the Criminal Code. Gvaramia is a journalist and founding director of the opposition TV Channel Rustavi-2. Now he must serve the remaining of his sentence. The Tbilisi Court of First Instance in May 2022 sentenced Gvarami, a 46-year-old lawyer and journalist to 3 ½ years in prison after finding him guilty of abuse of power related to his activities at Rustavi-2 in 2019.

Gvaramia was Justice Minister of Georgia in 2008 and Education Minister in 2008-2009, both under then President Mikheil Saakashvili. He then served as director general of Rustavi -2 before founding Mltavari Arkhi in 2019.

Gvaramia insisted that the case against him was politically motivated and he would bring his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
The trial might have contributed to the fact that Georgia was not granted candidate status with the EU in June 2022, unlike Moldova and Ukraine who were declared “candidate countries.”

The European Parliament adopted a resolution in June 2022 on “violations of media freedom and the safety of journalists in Georgia” that singled out Gvaramia’s case and “deplored the significant deterioration of the media situation in Georgia, including case of intimidation, threats and violence, and politically motivated criminal investigations into media workers and owners.

The U.S. embassy said in a statement that when Georgia’s commitment to an impartial judiciary and media pluralism is being closely reviewed by the EU, the continued imprisonment of Nika Gvaramia, the director-general of the main opposition TV channel, puts at risk the clear choice of the people of Georgia for a more secure, democratic European future.

The Tbilisi Court of Appeals also found co-defendant Kakhaber Damenia, a former financial director of Rustavi-2, guilty of embezzlement and ordered him to pay a 50,000 lari ($18,000) fine. Another co-defendant, the director of the Inter Media Plus news agency, Zurab Iashvili, was acquitted of all charges.

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