Former Deputy Head of State Security Service of Georgia claims Ivanishvili threatened his family

Ioseb (Soso) Gogashvili, former deputy head of the State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) currently in pretrial detention, released a letter from prison on 11 August alleging that ruling Georgian Dream founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, threatened him with the “destruction of his family” if Gogashvili “does not stop” what he is doing and “give the desired testimony.”

“I might find out that my family has died of a CO leak, a fire, or a car accident. In the best case scenario, they will plant [weapons or drugs] on my family members and close entourage and they will be caught…,” Gogashvili writes in the Facebook post, adding that he had received the threat in prison but without specifying the identity of the person who gave him the message.

The former deputy head of the SSG blames Ivanishvili and his family for the “illegalities” committed against those close to Gogashvili and emphasized that “together with my family, I will continue to fight for justice and continue the whistle-blowing campaign.”

“I appeal to the Public Defender, politicians, regardless of their position, NGOs, human rights defenders, the diplomatic corps and the media – to protect my innocent family,” Gogashvili said and asked those close to him to “physically” protect his family.

On 11 August, Gogashvili’s lawyer, Ramaz Chinchaladze, held a press conference in which he explained that the former SSG deputy head was taken to the shower of the 12th penitentiary and instructed to answer the phone sitting on the ledge, from which the Minister of Internal Affairs, Vakhtang Gomelauri, spoke to him.

“The conversation was about threats… the main request was that he [Gogashvili] should give the testimony they wanted, regarding the issues that Ioseb Gogashvili has voiced,” the lawyer said, emphasizing that it is known from which number Gogashvili was contacted and which number was placed in the phone he used.

According to Chinchaladze, Gogashvili used adhesive tape on his hand to take fingerprints from the mobile phone. “As far as I know, the mentioned evidence has already been taken out of the penitentiary institution, and we, the lawyers, will try to conduct examinations to see if it is suitable for identification,” he added.

Dimitri Ghonghadze, Gogashvili’s another lawyer, specified that his client spoke to the Minister of Internal Affairs four times. “Specifically during this incident, all guards were released from the third floor [of the prison], that is, no one was there,” he said, and emphasized that “the first two cases were organized by the head of the institution, Zurab Modebadze, who indicated to Gogashvili to enter the showers.”

On 12 August, the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia called on the Special Investigation Service (SIS) to conduct a timely and effective investigation into the allegations. In the meantime, the Public Defender’s Office urged law enforcement agencies to protect Gogashvili’s family.

EU releases Association Implementation Report on Georgia

A new Association Implementation Report on Georgia, released by the European External Action Service on August 13, stated that the EU Association Agreement has been a driver for reforms in the country and that overall, the process of aligning national law with EU law as part of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) is well on track and progressing.

It emphasized, however, that such challenges as local election shortcomings, July 5-6 homophobic pogroms, reports of wiretapping of parts of Georgian society, and other vital issues “threatened to undermine the country’s democratic foundations…”

The document also stated that “In 2021, Georgia’s alignment rate with relevant High Representative statements on behalf of the EU and Council Decisions was 53%, marking a decrease from 62% in 2020. During the first half of 2022, the rate further decreased to 42%.”

“Reforms in the judiciary stalled over the past year and even regressed in key areas,” the document stated and added that this occurred despite Georgian authorities promising on many occasions to increase the independence, accountability, and quality of the judicial system including through aligning amendments to the process for selecting Supreme Court Judges with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission’s opinions on the issue.

“According to the final monitoring report of the OSCE/ODIHR, the stage of the appointment procedure carried out by Parliament still lacks appropriate safeguards, undermining the integrity of the overall process,” it remarked.

In that context, the document highlighted that despite calls from the EU and Council of Europe to pause further judicial appointments, the Conference of Judges appointed six judges to the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) in a “hasty manner, without prior announcement, and without the required scrutiny” and that vacancies for five non-judge members of the HCoJ remain unfilled.

Speaking about politically sensitive court cases, the document highlighted the removal of parliamentary immunity for UNM chairperson Nika Melia, and his detention; passing a guilty verdict against Lelo for Georgia leaders Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze; the imprisonment of opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika Gvaramia; as well as the publication of footage of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s stay in prison and alleged violation of the right to attend one’s own trial.

Regarding the media environment in Georgia, the document emphasized that it remained diverse but “highly polarized.” It also remarked on the fact that Georgia’s press freedom rankings “significantly” worsened in 2022 when it ranked 89 among 180 countries.

It also highlighted that the far-right Alt Info group acquired nationwide TV broadcasting rights.

The document stressed that the decision to dismantle the State Inspector’s Service without prior consultation and the creation of two separate institutions instead prompted “concerns over the risk to institutional independence.”

“The OSCE/ODIHR Opinion on the Legislative Amendments on the State Inspector’s Service of Georgia of 18 February 2022, found that the process by which these amendments were carried out risks undermining the rule of law and the functioning of independent institutions in Georgia,” it added.

Regarding the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia, the document emphasized that it continued to play “an important role in providing oversight” but that her recommendations were only “partially followed” by Georgian authorities.

It also stated that the office “came under pressure for being vocal on certain politically sensitive issues… and attempts were made to undermine its independence and to cast doubts over the integrity of the office and its staff.”

The document also said that 2021 was a problematic year in terms of equal treatment, especially for LGBTQ people, as demonstrated by the July 5 violence.

The Kutaisi City Hall requests that activists be fined for putting up anti-occupation stickers

The Municipal Inspection Service of the Kutaisi City Hall requests to fine Tornike Baratashvili and Gia Gokadze, the founders of the non-governmental organization “Europe is our home”, for pasting anti-occupation stickers on the “White Bridge” on August 7, 2008, the 14th anniversary of the August War.

The municipality believes that “ENEMIES ARE NOT WELCOME” stickers on electric poles and tourist information boards in the cultural heritage protection zone have distorted the appearance of the city.

The inspection of the city hall drew up the protocol of violations on August 8, the second day of sticking the stickers. The City Hall attached to the protocol a photograph taken by the activists themselves and said that part of Article 150 of the “Code of Administrative Offenses” was violated, by which it is forbidden to put up inscriptions of different content in the cultural heritage zone.

The City Hall requests the court to order Tornike Baratashvili and Gia Gokadze to pay a fine of 1000 GEL. The protocol drawn up by the City Hall was handed over to the representatives of non-governmental organizations today, August 13.

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