Rustavi 2 TV Co-founders Launch Ownership Challenge

On October 17, Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze, co-founders of Rustavi 2 TV and the channel’s co-owners during the period of 1994-2004, announced their intentions to initiate legal proceedings based upon the disputation of their lost shares in the TV channel.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Dvali and Akimidze noted that they will file a lawsuit with the Tbilisi City Court.

“The current situation at Rustavi 2 TV does not meet the criteria for restoration of justice. Therefore, we address the government and the Georgian Dream supporters not to hamper the legal process to ensure that the 2012 promise about restoration of justice in the country is kept,” the co-founders said.

They expressed hope that the judiciary will pay due attention to the problem concerning “restoration of the rights and freedoms of media and citizens.” Dvali and Akimidze called on media outlets to support them and on civil society and foreign diplomats “to actively monitor the process.”

“Our struggle will be uncompromising, transparent and we hope that law and justice will triumph in the country this time. Justice towards Rustavi 2 TV will be restored only after it is returned to its founders,” the co-founders noted.

Kakha Kozhoridze, defense lawyer of the Rustavi 2 TV co-founders, explained that in the court they will use the arguments earlier addressed by Kibar Khalvashi, present owner of Rustavi 2 TV, based on which the Supreme Court adopted its ruling. “This will be the case of using Khalvashi’s own arguments against him,” he said.

“The judge, who will consider this case, will have two alternatives – either to meet our lawsuit or to reject the rulings of the Supreme Court of Georgia and the European Court of Human Rights,” Kozhoridze said, adding that if the two co-founders fail to find justice in the country, the Strasbourg-based court will have to consider the same case again.

The defense lawyer said that as a result of an “organized attack” by top officials in 2004, the two men were forced to give up 60% of their shares to another person, identified as Paata Karsanidze with the latter transferring his shares to Kibar Khalvashi, who, according to Kozhoridze, enjoyed the trust of those then in government.

Kozhoridze also recalled the testimony given by Kibar Khalvashi in 2014, according to which in order to receive shares in Rustavi 2 TV, he paid money to then Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili and then Security Minister Vano Merabishvili.

Kozhoridze explained that there is enough evidence to prove that in 2004 “a crime was committed and that Kibar Khalvashi was involved in this scheme.” Thus, the defense lawyer of Rustavi 2 TV co-founders seeks to make the argument in court that Khalvashi cannot be considered as an honest buyer.

Responding to Dvali and Akimidze, Rustavi 2 Director General Paata Salia said that the statute of limitations has run out, noting that it was too late to file the lawsuit.

In its judgement of July 18, 2019 the seven-member Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared there has been no breach in fair trial guarantees in Rustavi 2 ownership dispute. The Court also ruled “to discontinue” suspension of the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s March 2017 decision, which granted the ownership rights of Rustavi 2 TV to Kibar Khalvashi.

Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze, co-founders of Rustavi 2 TV, said in August that they would not accept 40% of shares in Georgia’s most-watched television broadcaster offered by Khalvashi. The latter had earlier promised 50% of shares to the co-founders as well as appointment of Dvali as the director general in case of positive resolution of the dispute over Rustavi 2 TV launched in 2015.

However, after winning the legal dispute and regaining control over the TV channel, Khalvashi did not keep his promise.

Instead, Khalvashi applied to the National Public Registry (NAPR) shortly after the ECHR decision and was registered as the new owner of Rustavi 2 TV on the same day. He also appointed his defense lawyer, Paata Salia, as the new director general, replacing Nika Gvaramia.

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