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Georgia’s Justice Minister Slams Public Defender

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, November 20
(TBILISI) -- Georgia’s Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani publicly criticized the country’s public defender, labelling him “unfair and unfit for office”.

Tsulukani’s stinging comments came only days after Public Defender Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili issued a preliminary report on a highly publicized attempted murder case involving members of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

In his report released Wednesday, Nanuashvili that the prosecution committed several fundamental violations that eventually led, in his opinion, “to an unfair guilty verdict” and a nine-year prison sentence forpriest who attempted to poison a colleague with Cyanide. Nanuashvili claims the defense team worked under “unfair conditions” after being denied access to certain pieces of evidence.

“Nanuashvili is acting as the first unfair and prejudiced public defender in the history of Georgia,” Tsulukiani said.

Tsulukiani’s statement echoed those of the chief prosecutor in the case, Jarji Tsiklauri, who called Nanuashvili’s report as “incompetent and groundless.”

The Tbilisi City Court also released a statement, saying Nanuashvili, whose five-year term in office ends in December, “had exceeded his powers and made groundless statements” regarding the verdict.

Opposition party officials and member of civil society claim the leadership of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition is trying to “deliberately discredit” Nanuashvili and cover-up violations committed by the district attorney’s office.

“There are a lot of people in the government who still do not understand the public defender’s obligation and role,” said human rights advisor Kakha Kozhoridze.

The Head of Georgia’s Bar Association, Zaza Khatiashvili, told reporters that the Georgian Dream’s attempt to force the public defender to carry out its orders is an “extremely negative development” for democracy in Georgia.

Since coming to the public’s attention in February, the highly publicized case has touched a raw nerve in Georgian society after it shed light on the dark internal politics of the powerful Georgian Orthodox Partriarchate.

In early February, Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor announced that they detained Father GiorgiMamaladze - the deputy head of the Patriarchate’s Property Management Service and director general of the Patriarchate’s medical center - at Tbilisi International Airport.

According to the prosecution, he was attempting to flee to Germany when apprehended.

Georgian Patriarch Ilia II was in Germany at the time to undergo an operation for bladder-related complications.

Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze said that Mamaladze had attempted to acquire cyanide form a close friend and distant relative - journalist Irakli Mamaladze.

Mamaladze informed the police that the former the priest intended to kill a “high ranking spiritual figure.”

Suspicion about who Mamaladze planned to murder grew when Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated that the country had “avoided a huge tragedy.”

The Prosecutor’s office later stated that the alleged target was the Ilia II’s secretary, Shorena Tetruashvili, and that Mamaladze sought “personal revenge” against her.

Mamaladze’s family, lawyers and some clergymen say he had information about violations in the Patriarchate, backed by Tetruashvili and others.