Political Motives Trump Legal in Cartographers’ Case, Public Defender Says
The Public Defender’s Office said on March 5 it has lodged an amicus curiae brief with the Tbilisi City Court on the “Cartographers’ Case,” arguing political or other motivations in the probe outweigh its legal motives.
The evidence used against former Delimitation Commission experts – Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilychova – charged with attempted land selling to Azerbaijan does not “prove” they acted with criminal intent either, it added.
The obtained evidence, the Ombudsperson said, also fails to show that former experts had any other malicious, corrupt, cheating, or fraudulent intentions.
The Ombudsperson said these mentioned “shortcomings” of the prosecution are “considered to be a violation of the Article 18 of the European Human Rights Convention,” involving the existence of political or other purposes in a probe.
“The launch of the investigation into the case coincided with the parliamentary elections and became the main pre-election political issue, which was used for campaign purposes,” it highlighted, adding that senior ruling Georgian Dream party officials, Government members, and lawmakers also used the probe “to criticize [other] political parties.”
Referring to then-Defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s and then-GD party chair Bidzina Ivanishvili’s efforts at obtaining the 1:200,000 map later used by the prosecution, the Ombudsperson pointed out that the investigation “was conditioned by a political official.”
The 1:200,000 scale map from 1937-1938, which the experts are accused of concealing during the Azerbaijan-Georgian border negotiations, has not yet been examined and verified to be valid either, the Public Defender argued.
The Prosecutor’s Office responded to the Ombudsperson later today, arguing the amicus curiae brief is “completely unfounded” and biased in favor of the two experts, instead of offering “assistance” to the Court for its judgment of the case.
The Prosecutor insisted that the Public Defender ignored in its brief the covert investigation materials and did not consult with the prosecution on the case either, despite the Ombudsperson statement saying otherwise.
Georgian authorities launched a criminal investigation and detained MFA’s Iveri Melashvili and Interior Ministry’s Natalia Ilychova some four weeks before the hotly-contested October 31, 2020 general election. The probe attracted wider public attention as it brought back into the spotlight the border dispute with Azerbaijan, over parts of the revered medieval David Gareji Monastery Complex.
The Prosecutor said that the two civil servants acted upon their superiors’ instructions, hinting at the UNM-era officials, and deliberately concealed the 1:200,000 map in the delimitation talks. As a result, it said, Georgia faced a threat of losing some 3,500 hectares of its historical territories along the border.
The two have been released on bail, as the prosecution said it had switched its investigation efforts towards revealing the superiors who gave the relevant instructions.
Much of the Georgian opposition and the civil society outfits regard the case as politically motivated, repeatedly underscoring that the prosecution’s charges do not refer to David Gareji Monastery section.
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