As Court Hearing Looms, Prosecution Moves to Release Cartographers on Bail

A prosecutor said today he will be asking the court to replace pretrial detention with the release on bail for Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilychova, the two former civil servants accused of attempted ceding lands to Azerbaijan during border delimitation talks.

The unexpected announcement comes right ahead of the Tbilisi City Court hearing into the case that came to be known as “The Cartographers’ Case” in Georgia.

Noting that the prosecution “identified a motive” – acting upon superiors’ instructions – behind the state experts’ behavior, the prosecutor said the prosecution will at this stage put its efforts into revealing the superiors that gave Melashvili and Ilychova the said orders.

A few days ago, on January 21, the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia said it completed the investigation and sent the case to the court for consideration. The Prosecutor’s Office said then that the two civil servants acted upon superiors’ instructions.

The Prosecutor’s Office then presented as evidence a covert video and audio recording of a conversation between Iveri Melashvili and the former Chairman of the Delimitation Commission, Malkhaz Mikeladze, which was apparently obtained from Foreign Ministry premises in September 2020, before Melashvili’s arrest, arguing the recording confirms Georgia faced a threat of losing some 3,500 hectares of its historical territories along the border, due to the “criminal activities” of Melashvili and Ilychova.

The defense side of both cartographers, detained in early October ahead of parliamentary polls, dubbing the case as politically motivated, then said the recordings do not prove their guilt or that the experts were fulfilling someone’s instructions.

Opposition United National Movement’s Tina Bokuchava said the Prosecutor’s Office’s decision is an attempt by the ruling Georgian Dream party to create the “illusion of compromise,” as the opposition presented the release of “political prisoners,” in addition to revote, as key demands for liftings its parliamentary boycott.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)