Information on Investigation of High-profile Cases Remains Closed - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Information on Investigation of High-profile Cases Remains Closed

26 September, 2017

Prior to the 2012 elections, coalition Georgian Dream promised to restore justice, restrain law enforcement from committing crimes, end illegal surveillance and free the media from political pressure. Despite these promises, a number of high-profile offenses committed after the Georgian Dream came to power have either not been properly investigated or the public has been kept in the dark about their investigation.

Rapid and impartial investigation of cases of high public interest is an important indicator of the efficiency of law enforcement agencies. The fact that most high-profile cases are left uninvestigated creates an impression that the investigative authorities are under inappropriate influence. While some offenses can objectively take a long time to investigate, law enforcement agencies should prioritize high-profile cases, in order to avoid doubts about their politicization and to engender a sense of security among the public. Rapid and comprehensive investigations are also necessary in order for the persons being investigated, who are often well-known, politically active individuals, not to feel that law enforcement agencies are artificially protracting the investigation, for the purpose of using it against them in the future, in case they decide to become politically active.

The Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs have recently made several statements promising disclosure of investigation details on some high-profile cases; however, such promises have not been kept in the past. This has resulted in several dozen high-profile cases, the results of which are currently unknown.

For this reason, we compiled a list of cases that received high public interest since 2012 and have had insufficient information being disclosed on their investigation. This list does not included cases where the investigation was completed, but had left questions among the public (e.g. cases of Iuri Vazagashvili, Demur Sturua).

The list includes cases that have been under investigation for as long as 5 years (e.g. cases of Barbare Rapaliantsi, pressure on a judge assistant, etc.), as well as cases that were launched this year (e.g. cases of Afgan Mukhtarli’s disappearance, assault on the Auditor General, etc.). We have grouped the cases in four main categories: cases involving illegal surveillance, alleged offenses by law enforcement representatives, confrontations during the pre-election period, and other high-profile cases.

Information presented below is based on documents obtained through public sources and, therefore, may not be final. We requested investigation results on these cases from the Prosecutor's Office, which refused to disclose the information. Transparency International Georgia believes that fully withholding information about cases of high public interest is contrary to the requirements of the law and shows that the Prosecutor's Office lacks a sense of adequate accountability towards the public. Our organization intends to launch a legal dispute against the Prosecutor's Office to obtain the requested information. However, we also remain hopeful that investigative agencies will decide to disclose information about the investigation of each of the cases below.

Illegal surveillance / dissemination of secret recordings

1. Archive of secret recordings – In 2013, more than 20,000 recordings obtained through illegal secret surveillance were found in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The recordings (some of which were found in caches located in Samegrelo) depicted cases of torture and inhuman treatment carried out by law enforcement and penitentiary employees, some of which remain uninvestigated to this day. Investigations on these illegal surveillance cases have also not been completed and persons responsible for creating the illegal surveillance system have not been identified. Only a few pieces of general information about the investigation have been disclosed, including the conviction of several persons, detention of 5 former high ranking officials in 2016, plea bargains being made with 8 defendants and dropping of charges against Vladimer Bedukadze.

2. A video by ‘Hakim Pasha’ – On March 19, 2014, an anonymous Youtube account with the name of ‘Hakim Pasha’ released a video depicting the former Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and Deputy Governor of Kvemo Kartli Raul Yusupov after their death. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, this video and photo material had been discovered in a safe, separately from the case materials, located in the office of the former Chief Prosecutor M. Zodalava, which, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, raised questions. Investigation results on the Hakim Pasha case have not been disclosed to this day.

3. Surveillance equipment in TV company Rustavi 2 – In 2014, secret surveillance equipment was discovered in Rustavi 2. On May 9 of the same year, the Prosecutor's Office published interim results of its investigation, according to which, the equipment was installed on orders of the previous government. The TV company denied this version. The final outcome of the investigation is unknown to the public.

4. Wiretapped recordings of 2013 – On May 12, 2014, TV company Rustavi 2 aired wiretapped recordings of former and current high ranking officials, in order to prove that the new government was engaged in illegal secret surveillance. The recordings were aired during a program titled ‘Different Accents’. According to the program, the wiretapped recordings of phone conversations between then Speaker of Parliament Davit Usupashvili and Giga Bokeria, and then Defense Minister Irakli Alasania and former Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava, were made in 2013. Investigation results on the origin and leak of these recordings are unknown.

5. Alleged surveillance of journalist Eka Mishveladze – In 2015, journalist Eka Mishveladze stated that she and her husband had been subject to secret government surveillance. Final results of the investigation remain unknown to this day.

6. Dissemination and public screening of videos depicting torture – In 2015, videos depicting torture were posted on a Ukrainian website. Later, these videos were screened publicly in the central districts of Tbilisi and Zugdidi. The dissemination and screening of these videos raised suspicions about their deliberate use as political weapons. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

7. Nika Gvaramia's statement on blackmail using wiretapped recordings – In 2015, director of TV company Rustavi 2 Nika Gvaramia stated on live air that he was being blackmailed. A few days later, wiretapped recordings of a telephone conversation between him and Mikheil Saakashvili were posted on Ukrainian websites. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

8. Sex tapes and accompanying threats – In March 2016, a sex tape involving a politician was leaked on the internet. A second video was leaked a few days later, where the persons involved were impossible to identify. The videos also contained threats towards politicians and journalists that more sex tapes would be leaked. According to media reports, the Prosecutor's Office had detained five persons for producing the sex tapes that were leaked on March 11 and 14, however, no information has been disclosed about the persons responsible for the leak.

9. Wiretapped recording of a conversation between Nika Gvaramia and Paata Burchuladze – In 2016, a wiretapped recording of a conversation between allegedly Nika Gvaramia and Paata Burchuladze, leader of the political party State for the People, was leaked. Results of the investigation are unknown.

10. Wiretapped recording of a conversation between Mikheil Saakashvili and members of the United National Movement – In 2016, a wiretapped recording of a conversation between allegedly Mikheil Saakashvili and members of the United National Movement was leaked, in which Saakashvili spoke about a scenario involving a revolution. Results of the investigation are unknown.

Offenses allegedly committed by law enforcement representatives

11. Pressure on a judge assistant – In December 2012, statements were made about a judge assistant at Tbilisi City Court being pressured by special services. Final results of the investigation remain unknown to the public.

12. Pressure on a former prisoner and torture victim – A former prisoner and torture victim stated that after he filed a complaint to the Prosecutor's Office in 2013 requesting investigation of his torture by former directors of Gldani Prison #8, he was attacked by law enforcement representatives in an effort to coerce him to withdraw the complaint. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

13. Alleged excessive use of force by police in Tsalenjikha – In 2014, a billing manager at the Tsalenjkha office of Energo Pro-Georgia accused police officers of beating and threatening him with sexual assault. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

14. Violation of Muslim rights in Mokhe – in 2014, police arrested 14 protesting Muslims in the village of Mokhe. According to media reports, law enforcement representatives smashed the cell phones that the protesters were using to record the deconstruction of an old mosque. Samtskhe-Javakheti Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation on excessive use of force by the police in Mokhe; its results remain unknown.

15. Alleged mistreatment on ethnic grounds at a police station – A piece of video footage appeared in 2015 depicting alleged mistreatment of a person on allegedly ethnic grounds at a police station. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor’s Office had launched an investigation on alleged participation of police officers in the mistreatment of a citizen in Chkhorotsku. Results of the investigation are unknown.

16. Statement by the manager of Vitamin club on police violence – Manager of Vitamin club Lika Kikiani claimed that police officers had beaten her and smashed her phone on the night of July 6 at the Turtle Lake. General Inspection of the Ministry of Internal Affairs promptly completed its investigation and concluded that Kikiani's claim could not be confirmed. Later, Tbilisi Prosecutor's Office also launched an investigation on Kikiani's request. Results of this investigation remain unknown.

17. Rapper Case – In June 2017, members of a rap project Birzha Mafia were arrested for illegal purchase and possession of drugs. According to media reports, the arrest was a retaliation against the rappers’ music video that made fun of the police. The arrest was followed by a large-scale public outcry. The Prosecutor’s office stated that an investigation had been launched on alleged falsification of evidence and abuse of power by police officers. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

Confrontations during the pre-election period

18. Attempts to thwart pre-election meetings of an opposition party – In April 2014, attempts were made to thwart meetings organized by representatives of the United National Movement in Batumi, Anaklia, Telavi, Tskaltubo and Tbilisi. The incident included verbal and physical confrontation, and throwing of eggs at cars belonging to the opposition party. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

19. Confrontation in Gardabani – In May 2014, two groups of citizens entered into physical confrontation in Gardabani. Acting Governor of Gardabani Municipality stated that the confrontation was provoked by a group under the chairperson of the United National Movement Gardabani organization. UNM members stated that they were physically assaulted by members of the Georgian Dream. Journalists and eyewitnesses spoke about the ethnic undertones of the confrontation. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

20. Confrontation in Zugdidi and Batumi – In March 2015, physical confrontations took place in Zugdidi and Batumi on political grounds. After an initial verbal confrontation, the protesters supporting the Georgian Dream broke into a building with batons and clashed with the UNM supporters inside. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

21. Violent incident in Akhaltsikhe – In October 2016, a UNM activist stated that after returning from a village to Akhaltsikhe they were verbally and physically assaulted by the local governor and his companions. The incident took place several days before the second round of parliamentary elections. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

Other high-profile cases

22. Case of Barbare Rapaliantsi – On September 30, 2012, in the village of Kolagi in Gurjaani Municipality, 10 month old Barbare Rapaliantsi was found dead in a qvevri (a clay pot used to ferment wine). After the Georgian Dream’s victory in the elections, Minister of Internal Affairs Irakli Gharibashvili publicly pledged on several occasions that the case would be investigated promptly. In 2014, the Parliament refused to create a temporary investigative commission in relation to the case of Barbare Rapaliantsi. Results of the investigation remain unknown to this day.

23. Case of Constanta Fund – In 2011, the Executive Director of Constanta Fund was detained and brought to the Prosecutor's Office. There is a reasonable suspicion that the prosecutors violated the rights of the Fund. These illegal actions were explained in detail in the complaints filed by the Constanta Fund in 2013-2014; however, results of the investigation remain unknown.

24. Privatization of the Agrarian University – In 2014, the Prosecutor's Office summoned the founder of the Free University and the Knowledge Fund, businessman Kakha Bendukidze for questioning as a witness over privatization of a large amount of real estate credited on the balance of the Agricultural University. The final result of the investigation remains unknown.

25. Assault on MP Nugzar Tsiklauri – In 2014, Member of Parliament Nugzar Tsiklauri was physically assaulted by unknown persons outside his residence. According to the MP, it was an attempt to kidnap him. Results of the investigation remain unknown to this day.

26. Tire Case – In 2014, the Minister of Internal Affairs Aleksandre Tchikaidze spoke about possible destabilization in the country. He stated that the United National Movement was working on a ‘Euromandian scenario’ in Georgia and had already started gathering car tires for this purpose. In September of the same year, the Minister raised the issue once again and stated that the UNM was still planning to destabilize the country and that he had evidence of this. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

27. Investigation of a conspiracy to overthrow the government and seize power – In 2015, a Ukrainian website released audio recordings of telephone conversations between the Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and director of Rustavi 2 Nika Gvaramia, and between Saakashvili and UNM General Secretary Giga Bokeria. This was followed by a statement of the deputy head of the State Security Service Levan Izoria that an investigation was launched on a conspiracy to overthrow the government and seize power. Giga Bokeria and Nika Gvaramia were questioned by the State Security Service. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

28. Threats towards family members of Giorgi Papuashvili – In 2016, the Constitutional Court released a statement, according to which, family members of the Chairperson of the Constitutional Court had received threatening and insulting telephone messages from an unknown person. According to the statement, law enforcement agencies had launched an investigation to determine the identity of this person. The final result of this investigation remains unknown.

29. Pressure on regional media – More than 15 cases of pressure exerted by local and central authorities on regional media have been reported over the past three years. The public has not been provided any information about investigation results for any of these cases. Also unknown are investigation results on the 2012 case of a robbery at Studio Monitor.

30. Leaked judge tests – In February 2016, the Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into the alleged violation of confidentiality of judge qualification tests held on November 21-28, 2015. Results of the investigation remain unknown, even though the prolonged nature of this investigation raises questions about its possible use to influence judges.

31. Accusations against Tedo Kobakhidze – On June 12, 2016, a former employee of Tbilisi City Council Badri Javakhishvili accused Tedo Kobakhidze, Chairperson of the Council’s Legal Issues Commission, of salary extortion. According to Javakhishvili, Kobakhidze was forcing him to pay him a part of his salary. Later, another scandal broke around Kobakhidze. On December 12, 2016, a specialist at the Council Legal Issues Commission spoke about the existence of fictitious employees. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

32. Assault on the former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Gela Khvedelidze – In April 2017, former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Gela Khvedelidze was attacked by masked persons near his residence. Results of the investigation remain unknown.

33. Attack on the Auditor General – In May 2017, Auditor General Lasha Tordia stated that he was physically assaulted by the former Chief Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze and his security guards. According to Tordia, the attack was related to a specific case the State Audit Office was investigating. The Ministry of Internal Affairs launched an investigation of the incident based on Article 126 of the Criminal Code, which involves beating or other violence. On May 22, 2017, the Ministry published interim findings of this investigation; however, it remains unknown whether charges were brought against anyone.

34. Disappearance of Afgan Mukhtarli – On May 29, 2017, an Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli disappeared in Tbilisi. The following day he was detained in Azerbaijan for illegal border crossing and currency smuggling. Later, the Minister of Internal Affairs stated that head of Border Police Davit Nikoleishvili and head of Counterintelligence Department of the State Security Service Otar Kuprashvili would be suspended until the end of the investigation. Afgan Mukhtarli’s disappearance was followed by harsh criticism of local and international organizations; however, results of the investigation remain unknown.

The lack of publicly available information on high-profile cases of the past several years raises questions about the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies and, in some cases, selectiveness of their response. Even though specific high-ranking officials have been charged in most high-profile crimes committed before 2012, persons responsible for systemic offenses have not been identified and held responsible. There are suspicions that these individuals may continue to hold public positions to this day.

Transparency International Georgia calls on:

  • Investigative agencies to promptly disclose information on the outcomes of all cases of high public interest.
  • The Parliament of Georgia to look into the investigations of high-profile cases and exercise its oversight authority to request information from the Prosecutor's Office.