UNM Member Sentenced to 11 Days in Jail

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) announced on 25 August that the Akhalkalaki District Court sentenced Artur Mkoyan, a member of the United National Movement in Akhalkalaki, to 11 days of administrative detention for disobeying law enforcement.

According to the MIA, on 23 August in Akhalkalaki on Davit Aghmashenebeli Street, Mkoyan “likely fired a pistol” while driving in an Opel brand car in the direction of police officers operating a private vehicle.

Per the agency’s explanation, as part of the investigation, law enforcement searched Mkoyan’s residence, during which he disobeyed a lawful request by police officers and was arrested under Article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.

The MIA denoted that investigation has also been started under Article 236 (3 and 4) of the Criminal Code of Georgia, envisaging the illegal acquisition, storage, and carrying of firearms. They did not specify however if a weapon was removed from Mkoyan’s house during the search.

The Ministry also published a video of the incident in question, in which a man can be seen allegedly firing a gun from the car.

Mkoyan’s Family Responds

Mkoyan’s family members associated his arrest with political motivations and accused the head of the Akhalkalaki Regional Division of the Samtskhe-Javakheti Police Department, Shalva Lomsadze, of trying to pressure and threaten Mkoyan. In a conversation with Formula TV*, Mkoyan’s father said that law enforcement officers came to their house at 11:00 o’clock at night searching for “illegal firearms” but were unable to find anything.

According to the father, his son was arrested because he is a representative of an opposition party. As he explained, his son and daughter-in-law were also on the list of the UNM party during the 2021 local self-government elections, which is when the pressure, threats, and blackmail began. “My wife was fired from her job, now I don’t know what to do,” he said.

Another man related to the family, whose identity was kept hidden in Formula’s report, said that “this story” has deep roots and emphasized that the threats against them “come from the pre-election period.” According to him, Mkoyan’s wife was even “threatened with sexual violence” and they tried to provoke Mkoyan himself.

“For our police, illegal actions are not a new norm, they are strictly interested in elections and political affairs,” he said, and added that, “this is the personal whim of the police chief, when he gets drunk, he starts making judgments and asserting his dominance.”

In the past, Mkoyan’s wife, Nina Mkoyan, confirmed the allegation that Lomsadze threatened her with sexual assault and accused the police chief of kidnapping, threats, and physical violence. According to Nina Mkoyan, during the alleged incident, she was able to escape and chose not to file a complaint against Lomsadze.

Per Nina Mkoyan’s account, Lomsadze was sending her and her husband threatening messages from different Instagram accounts. According to Nina Mkoyan, she has saved the screenshots confirming the threats.

According to the media, Artur Mkoyan is the brother of the former ruling Georgian Dream party member, Enzel Mkoyan, and has himself been a representative of GD in the past.

UNM Briefing

Following Mkoyan’s arrest, the UNM party held a briefing on 24 August, where MP Giorgi Botkoveli assessed Mkoyan’s arrest as “political persecution” against his family, “the main creator of which is the Akhalkalaki police chief, Shalva Lomsadze.”

Per MP Botkoveli, Lomsadze’s “political persecution” of Mkoyan started in 2020-2021, when Mkoyan was a member of the UNM party list. “He was subjected to various kinds of terror, pressure, and blackmail so that he would leave the United National Movement,” MP Botkoveli stated.

“This is once again a kind of expression of the Georgian Dream government, that the main structure, which should be focused on protecting people, is busy terrorizing people and political opponents of the government,” he emphasized.

MP Botkoveli called on the authorities to stop the political persecution of people who are “fighting for their homeland.” “These people will continue to fight until the end of this government, which instead of taking care of people, is busy with political terror, arrests, and oppressing people…,” he added.

The MIA responded to the UNM briefing but declined to address the Mkoyan family’s allegations. The MIA statement released on 25 August, denied “terror and political persecution” against the Mkoyan family and emphasized that the “[UNM] statement is not true.”

*Note: The comments made by Artur Mkoyan’s family were translated by Formula TV from Russian to Georgian.

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