GD Chief Lumps UNM, CSOs, Gvaramia as ‘Anti-EU’

The United National Movement party, local civil society organizations, imprisoned Mtavari Arkhi TV director Nika Gvaramia and “their foreign lobbyists are in essence anti-EU,” Georgian Dream Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze said today.

Faced with widespread allegations of politically motivated prosecution of Gvaramia, the GD claimed in today’s briefing that the UNM, its “partners and lobbyists” are leading a “brazen and shameless” campaign over the Mtavari Arkhi TV chief’s imprisonment.

This “hysteric campaign,” the GD chief claimed, aims to bar Rustavi 2 TV’s current owner Kibar Khalvashi from receiving about GEL 7 million (USD 2.3 million) of compensation for damages the channel suffered in 2015 under Gvaramia’s leadership, before Khalvashi reclaimed the company’s ownership in 2019.

The GD chair further claimed that as Gvaramia’s defense plans to appeal yesterday’s ruling in higher instances, the “politically motivated hysteria and bullying” of judges could affect the outcome of lawsuits.

“The UNM, its satellite parties, its media outlets, NGOs and foreign lobbyists are working in sync against the rule of law, justice, state institutions and the media,” the ruling party leader claimed. “We will not allow these people to either stop the enforcement of justice, or rob TV stations or pressure the court.”

He further brushed aside concerns that the incarceration of the director of the country’s key government-critical TV channel could adversely affect Georgia’s EU membership bid. “The EU [does not stand for] corruption, robbery and injustice, on the contrary, the EU is a society with rule of law and free of corruption.”

GD Chief Takes Aim at Foreign Embassies

Responding to reporters, the GD chief also claimed that yesterday’s U.S. Embassy statement, which said Gvaramia’s sentencing called into question Georgia’s commitment to the rule of law, “is unfortunately involved in the campaign we spoke of.”

He argued he was not aware of what prompted the U.S. Embassy to make the statement, but suggested that it “could be incorrectly informed.”

“Specific criminals committed a specific crime and when there is a critical statement being made about this without any substantiation, it is of course a certain form of covering for a criminal,” the GD chairperson added, seemingly referring to the U.S. Embassy statement.

Referring to the international concerns over the Supreme Court ruling in 2017 to grant Rustavi 2 ownership back to Kibar Khalvashi, the GD chief claimed that the foreign embassy statements back then allowed Gvaramia to “further continue robbing” the channel in 2017-2019.

The enforcement of the 2017 Rustavi 2 ownership ruling was suspended as then-owners — brothers Giorgi and Levan Karamanishvilitook the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which in 2019 found no breach in their right to a fair trial and paved the way for Khalvashi to take back the company.

After Khalvashi returned as the owner, the new management dismissed in July 2019, then-director Nika Gvaramia, among others, who went on to establish Mtavari Arkhi TV.

Subsequently, Georgia opened a probe with the Prosecutor’s Office in August and November 2019, charging Gvaramia over several decisions he made during his management of the channel.

The Tbilisi City Court yesterday handed down its verdict in the case, sending Gvaramia to prison for 3.5 years and fining former financial director of Rustavi 2 Kakha Damenia GEL 50,000 (USD 16.7 thousand) for abuse of power.

Gvaramia and Damenia both deny all charges as politically motivated.

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