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Tuesday, July 19
Campaigners’ plea to president to free 22-year-old caught with ecstasy

Groups demonstrated on Thursday demanding that the President to release a 22 year old man who is serving a one year prison sentence for possession of two grams of ecstasy.

Kote Japaridze, the recipient of a presidential scholarship, was arrested on May 30 for buying and being in possession of two grams of Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also known as ecstasy.

He is serving a one year prison term after making a plea agreement and must also pay a 25,000 lari fine.

Japaridze’s lawyer Nino Gelashvili told DFWatch that in 2015 the government amended the law to distinguish between drug consumers and dealers, but in practice Georgia’s drugs policy stayed the same, she said, calling the policy ‘repressive’.

She recalled that one of her clients who was arrested before the new 2015 law, was sentenced to eight years in jail. At that time, the law prescribed from seven to fourteen years in jail for that kind of crime. When the new law came into force, the punishment was reduced to five to eight years in jail. She then asked the court to adjust her client’s sentence accordingly, but the court didn’t change the sentence.

The lawyer noticed that nothing much changed after the amendment, because there are at least 147 types of drugs for which a 'small quantity' has never been legally defined. This is significant, because the law prescribes different punishment for the same drug, depending on the amount.

“There are types of drugs which only have categorizations of a large amount, for example 0.00009 grams of desomorphine is considered a large amount, while 0.0000033 grams of amphetamine is large amount too. The drug policy cannot be more humane and loyal if the law doesn’t determine what a small amount is for these drugs, as it could really differentiate the drug consumer from the drug dealer,” she told DFWatch.

The support campaign for Kote Japaridze began a few weeks ago with an online petition demanding his release. The text of the petition reads that Georgia is overly harsh to recreational drug users, and that drug policies are ‘disproportionately strict and degrading.’ The petition has collected more than 3,000 signatures.

In the ensuing public debate, there have been calls also from the Public Defender to revise Georgia’s drug policy and change the level of punishment for drug users. They argue that the current drug policy is aimed at punishment, not treatment and support.

In 2012, before coming to power, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition promised to change the country’s drug policy. This was one of their election promises. However, almost every draft law related to the liberalization of drug policy has failed to pass in Parliament.

Among them was an initiative by MP Goga Khachidze from Girchi, a relatively new political party, which dealt with changing the drug testing process. In June 2015, Levan Abzinanidze died in Kutaisi after being forced by police to take three diuretic pills in connection with drug testing. Later, the victim's wife claimed that her husband had died because the pills caused his blood pressure to drop. A forensic examination is still in progress to determine the exact cause of death.

Over the course of the four years since coming to power, the government has passed only one drug-related law, which according to drug liberalization activists is only a façade. The bill was prepared by the Prosecutor General’s Office, together with the Justice Ministry and the Interior Ministry. It was an amendment of only one section of the Criminal Code, article 260, to set tougher punishment for drug dealing, and less severe for buying and storing drugs. Before the change, producing, buying, storing, moving, sending and dealing drugs was all punished by six years in jail, but after the amendment, producing, buying, storing, moving, and sending is punished by up to six years in jail, while dealing is punished with from six to eleven years in jail.

Advocate Gelashvili told DFWatch that there were no drugs confirmed in Japaridze’s blood and he is charged with buying and storing a large amount of drugs, which is punished from eight to twenty years in jail or with life imprisonment. However, due to a plea agreement with the Prosecutor General’s Office, he was sentenced to one year in jail, a 25,000 lari fine and five years of suspended sentence. He is not allowed to drive for five years; he is not allowed to partake in any medical or legal activities, teach or work in educational facilities, or work in public service. He is also denied voting rights for ten years.
(DF watch)

No tuberculosis-related deaths in Georgian prisons

Inmates in Georgia's prisons are no longer dying of tuberculosis, the latest figures show.

In the past three years there were no registered inmate deaths due to tuberculosis, announced head of the Medical Department of Georgia's Ministry of Corrections Tamta Demurishvili.

She said new medicines played an important role preventing fatal cases of tuberculosis in prisons in Georgia.

Demurishvili explained that in 2015 Georgia introduced a new treatment regime for inmates with tuberculous, which involved new medicines.

The figures showed that last year, 13 people joined the treatment course, while this year only seven people joined, indicating that the number of people suffering from tuberculosis is also decreasing.

Turkish government seemed to have list of arrests pre-prepared: EU's Hahn

“The swift rounding up of judges and military officials after a failed coup in Turkey indicated that the government had prepared a list of people to be arrested prepared beforehand,” the EU commissioner dealing with Turkey's membership bid, Johannes Hahn, said on Monday according to Reuters.

Following a failed coup attempt on Saturday, Turkish authorities on Sunday rounded up nearly 3,000 suspected military plotters, ranging from top commanders to foot soldiers, and the same number of judges and prosecutors.

"It looks at least as if something has been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage," Hahn said. "I'm very concerned. It is exactly what we feared."