Statement on Recent Detentions
This English translation of a statement we released on September 23 in Georgian was published on September 25.
Transparency International Georgia is responding to the administrative detention of several people on alleged political grounds that took place during the last few days. It is worrying that the arrests do not seem to have been based on solid or reliable evidence. These questionable arrests give us reason to suspect that certain politically active people are being intentionally targeted and removed from the ongoing electoral process.
Instances of questionable arrests include:
On September 21, four individuals - David Patsatsia, Zurab Meskhia, Shota Bazerashvili, and Constantine Labartkava - were arrested for committing an administrative offence. The four of them were indicted for disobedience to a law enforcement officer under Article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offences of Georgia. Patsatsia and Meskhia have already been sentenced to 40 days of administrative detention.
On September 22, the Ministry of Internal Affairs detained civil activists Dachi Tsaguria and Bekar Aladoshvili. They were sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention. Against the background of recent developments in Georgia, and taking into account that Dachi Tsaguria was actively involved in organizing the youth protests, the arrest of the latter raises further suspicions. We believe that such actions, especially when they occur in the pre-election period, are clearly politically motivated. Furthermore, before being arrested, Dachi Tsaguria had scheduled a meeting with NGOs in the Transparency International Georgia office.
Kakha Zhorzholiani, a Georgian Dream representative in Mestia precinct, was also detained today. He was arrested on the basis of a complaint by CEC representative Archil Sopromadze, who maintained that Zhorzholiani had a got into a fight and disrupted the functioning of the Commission on September 20. However, four members of the commission, as well as several other eyewitnesses, told us that no such instance of fighting or other hooligan activity had taken place. According to them, there was only a loud argument and a quarrel. Our information suggests that the basis for this particular administrative detention was petty hooliganism, which is punishable under Article 166 of the Code of Administrative Offences of Georgia, and which leads to the imposition of a penalty of GEL 100 or administrative custody for up to 90 days. However, regarding the activities of the election administration, the Election Code of Georgia provides for appropriate measures in this situation, including allowing the administration to expel from the meeting any person disrupting order (paragraphs 15 and 18 of Article 8 of the Election Code). Therefore, it was improper to apply the Code of Administrative Offences in a case which was regulated by a law of a higher hierarchical order, namely the Election Code.
The same day, Zviad Sabanadze, a Georgian Dream coordinator in the Gori zone, was detained. He was also indicted under Article 166 of the Code of Administrative Offences (petty hooliganism).
We therefore call on:
The appropriate governmental agencies of Georgia to take into account the current situation in the country, and apply the measures discussed above only where reliable and strong evidence exists, failing which such actions will seriously reduce public confidence in the electoral process and prevent holding the elections in a fair and peaceful environment.
The Inter-agency Committee for Free and Fair Elections to fully investigate the above cases and, if necessary, take appropriate measures.