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Public Registry Head Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Accusations

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, March 28
Papuna Ugrekhelidze, the Chair of the National Agency of Public Registry under the Justice Ministry has announced about his resignation, after his former employee accused him of sexual harassment.

Ugrekhelidze took Facebook to announce about his decision, denying the charges.

He explained that he decided to resign in order not to allow some forces use this case as a “political tool.”

The Public Registry Head added that his former employee Eka Meskhidze accuses him of sexual harassment in order to “pay him back” for dismissing her husband, Zurab Kipiani, who used to work at the Public Registry but was fired on the basis of disciplinary penalty.

“Because of the dismissal of her husband Eka Meskhidze was blackmailing me and there is a witness too who was asked by Meskhidze to tell me not to dismiss Kipiani, threatening to appeal to the Public Defender,” Ugrekhelidze’s post reads.

The Chair of the National Agency of Public Registry added that Meskhidze used two other employees and her friends to accuse him [Ugrekhelidze] of sexual harassment.

“I am now free from the status of a public servant, and can speak freely about the truth. I will fight against the lies wrapped as the “rights of women”,” Ugrekhelidze stressed.

The information about alleged sexual harassment by Ugrekhelidze towards his former or current employees was included in the report of the Public Defender a few months ago.

The report, released around nine months ago, reads that Ugrekhelidze was systematically sexually harassing his female employees. However, the report was not followed by any response from the government.

Moreover, Rustavi 2 TV reported later that another woman was also accusing Ugrekhelidze of sexual harassment.

Prior to Ugrekhelidze’s statement about his resignation, several Georgia-based Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) demanded his dismissal.

Ida Bakhutadze, member of the NGO Women’s Movement, says that all high-rank officials knew about the allegations, however, no actions had been made.

“The report of Ombudsman should have served as the reason to at least suspend the authority of Ugrekhelidze long time ago,” she added.

Local rights group the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), who are representing the woman accusing Ugrekhelidze in harassment, say they expected the Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, would take the side of the harassed women, but she did not do it.

As GYLA Chair, Sulkhan Saladze says, the facts of sexual harassments were confirmed by the Public Defender, adding the Justice Minister should not wait longer to express her position over the case.

“It is unreasonable when the Justice Minister says she will make decision after listening to Ugrekhelidze. Ombudsman’s report is clear enough to make proper response over the case,” Saladze explained.

Justice Minister stated on March 26 that she needed time to speak to both sides in order to make a decision about Ugrekhelidze.