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The News in Brief

Wednesday, May 18
Public Defender releases statement on International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia

“May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, the celebration of which is related to the removal of homosexuality from the list of diseases by the World Health Organization on May 17, 1990. The day is aimed at expressing solidarity with the LGBT community and condemning violence. Unfortunately, homosexuality often becomes grounds for violent acts and hate crimes against LGBT people and their supporters,” reads the statement released by Public Defender of Georgia Ucha Nanuashvili.

“According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Non-discrimination, protection from violence, freedom of expression, the right to assembly and manifestations are the basic values for the countries’ democratic development.

“The events in Georgia showed us that no effective measures have been taken for raising public awareness or establishing a culture of tolerance in the country. A timely, efficient and accountable investigation of hate crimes is still a problem. Three years have passed, but nobody has been held responsible for the criminal acts committed on 17 May, 2013.

“Despite the fact that various groups have planned a number of events in the central areas of the capital, it is a pity that the the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia cannot be celebrated in the open air. According to an independent group of LGBT activists, due to the government giving no guarantee of providing security, they are refraining from further public demonstrations. It is worrying that homophobic attitudes in society threaten the realization of a constitutional right.

“Given all the above, I call on all public agencies to do their best to prevent hate-motivated violence, as well as to promote unconditional implementation of constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms for the LGBT community.” (IPN)

GYLA: Guilty Verdict in Cable Case ‘Unfair, Unjustified, Unlawful’

A Tbilisi-based legal advocacy group, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), which was representing one of the co-defendants in the cable case trial against five former MoD and general staff officials, said the guilty verdict delivered by the court on May 16 was “unfair, unjustified and unlawful”, further fuelling suspicions over “political motives” behind the conviction.

Tbilisi City Court found five defendants guilty of misspending budgetary funds and sentenced them to seven years in prison on May 16.

One former and four serving officials from MoD and general staff of the armed forces were arrested on October 28, 2014 and charged with misspending GEL 4.1 million in an alleged sham tender in 2013 on laying fiber-optic cable. The five men have denied charges.

The GYLA said that evidence available in the case failed to prove the defendants’ “mercenary motives”, which is an element of offence envisaged by article 182 of the Georgian criminal code, involving misspending, under which the defendants were charged.

It also said that the defendants have never any access to the funds which the prosecution claimed were misspent.

“The prosecution has failed to prove that the MoD officials had any intent or capability of misspending budgetary funds for anyone’s personal gain,” the GYLA said, and also pointed that the judge delivered the verdict only two working days after the 18-month trial was over.

It expressed hope that during the appellate process the higher court will have “enough courage to only take legal factors into consideration and will deliver the only correct decision – the acquittal of innocent people.”

This co called “Cable Case” led to the first major split within the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition in 2014 and the firing of then Defence Minister Irakli Alasania, followed by the resignations of his two allies from cabinet posts.

It resulted in Alasania’s Free Democrats leaving the GD coalition in November 2014. Alasania has been denouncing the charges against the MoD officials as “politically motivated”.

The Free Democrats opposition party said on Monday that it will hold a protest rally outside the Prosecutor’s Office on May 21.

The leader of the party, Irakli Alasania, said that he will “fight to the end” through all available legal means to achieve the release of the five innocent men.

“By this verdict [ex-PM] Bidzina Ivanishvili ‘congratulated’ us, the Free Democrats, on the launch of our election campaign,” Irakli Alasania said on May 16. “This [verdict] was a political order coming from [Ivanishvili], demonstrating a growing trend towards the authoritarian regime in the country.

“When soldiers and their families are treated like this by the judiciary and Prosecutor’s Office controlled by [Ivanishvili], it means that we all should make a proper conclusion – the consequences will be grave if we leave Georgia in this injustice,” Alasania said.

“We will not turn away from the path of elections and in the October parliamentary elections, together with the Georgian people, we will replace authorities obedient to the informal ruler [Ivanishvili],” he added.

Republican Party, which remains in governing coalition with the GDDG party, also said that there are political motives behind the guilty verdict.

“We saw and still see political motives in this case and today’s verdict proves that there are political motives,” Khatuna Samnidze, chairperson of the Republican Party, told Tbilisi-based TV Pirveli on May 16. (