Posts by DFWatch staff:

Media

Georgian opposition TV claims tax debt used to silence its voice

by | Jul 21

TBILISI, DFWatch--The director of Georgia’s biggest opposition TV company claims the government is using tax laws to to get it off air ahead of the local elections in October. “TV company Rustavi 2 is again under threat […] The state is seemingly preparing for a decisive blow agains Rustavi 2,

Media

Georgia suspends two officials while investigating journalist’s abduction

by | Jul 21

TBILISI, DFWatch--The government in Georgia has suspended two high ranking officials to ensure the impartiality of an investigation into the alleged abduction of an Azerbaijani investigative journalist. The decision comes after immense pressure from human rights groups,

News

German Greens MEP backs Gülen school official’s plea against extradition

by | Jul 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--The head of the Greens faction in the EU parliament calls on Georgia not to extradite a school manager to Turkey. “To be a teacher is not a crime,” said Rebecca Harms, a German politician who is current head of the Greens-European Free Alliance in the EU parliament.

Minorities

Rally in Tbilisi to demand ‘illegal’ immigrants kicked out

by | Jul 15

TBILISI, DFWatch--Nationalist groups in Georgia mobilized supporters Friday for an anti-immigration rally in the center of Tbilisi. Activists carrying flags and slogans for nationalist causes demanded ‘illegal’ immigrants kicked out of the country and called on authorities to bring

News

Anti-immigration activists plan rally in Tbilisi Friday evening

by | Jul 14

TBILISI, DFWatch--Nationalists in Georgia plan an anti-immigration rally in the center of Tbilisi Friday evening. The rally, which will take place on Aghmashenebeli Avenue at 8pm, will take aim at illegal immigration, especially from Muslim countries. One of their demands is to close down

Minorities

Constitutional Court overturns ban on gay men donating blood – again

by | Jul 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s Constitutional Court has overturned a ban on donation of blood by men who have had sex with other men. The lawsuit to lift the ban was filed by LGBT rights activists Gocha Gabodze and Levan Berianidze. The ban on donating blood for 'a man who has had a sexual

News

Detained Gülen school director to ask for asylum to avoid extradition

by | Jul 12

TBILISI, DFWatch--A detained Gülen school official is asking for asylum in Georgia in order to avoid extradition to Turkey, where he may face brutal and inhumane treatment, according to his lawyers. Georgia detained Mustafa Emre Cabuk in May. He is one of the managers of Demirel

News

Five foreign tourists rescued by helicopter in Caucasus mountain range

by | Jul 10

TBILISI, DFWatch--Five foreign tourists were rescued by helicopter from a mountain plateau in the main Caucasus range Saturday after being isolated by a flooded stream. Personnel from the Emergency Management Agency used helicopters belonging to the border

News

Separatists deny leader injured in car crash visiting other breakaway region

by | Jul 8

TBILISI, DFWatch--The separatists in one of Georgia’s two breakaway regions denied a report in Russian media that their leader was injured in a car crash Saturday while visiting another separatist region. Anatoly Bibilov, the de facto president of the tiny enclave South Ossetia,

News

Indian citizen refused entry to Georgia twice without being given a reason

by | Jul 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--An Indian businessman was refused entry to Georgia for the second time on Wednesday, after a similar incident two days earlier. A lawyer for Akbar Khan Qureshi said the young Indian entrepreneur again was turned away in the border control at Tbilisi airport

In brief

Two men rescued by helicopter from flooded river in Samegrelo

by | Jul 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two men were rescued by a police helicopter in Western Georgia on Wednesday. The two got stuck in the middle of a flooded river near the village Khabume in Samegrelo. Local rescue workers were unable to bring the two men out of the river Khobistskali,

News

2,500 sqm destroyed by fire at Tbilisi’s largest market

by | Jul 3

TBILISI, DFWatch--A fire tore through Georgia’s largest outdoors market Sunday evening, leaving at least four people hospitalized, including one firefighter, and devastating up to 2,500 square meters of commercial space, officials said. The fire at Eliava bazaar in Tbilisi

Europe

PACE to discuss dismissing its president in October

by | Jun 30

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will discuss a proposal to dismiss its chairperson in early October after a motion was tabled on Friday. The motion to dismiss PACE President Pedro Agramunt was backed by 158 out of the 636 member

Legal reform

CoE official dismayed over Georgia’s constitution ‘crisis’

by | Jun 30

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Council of Europe official is in despair over the way Georgian leaders have handled the drafting of a new constitution, calling the debacle a ‘crisis’. “I’m disappointed and become more and more disappointed for every hour,” head of the Venice Commission Gianni Buquicchio

Elections

Georgia’s local elections slated for end of October

by | Jun 27

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgians will go to the polls to elect new mayors and local governments in the end of October, President Giorgi Margvelashvili announced on Tuesday. The local elections will be held in the ‘end the third week of October’, the president said,

Politics

Popular TV host to represent opposition UNM in Tbilisi mayoral race

by | Jun 26

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s main opposition party is hoping that a popular news anchor will bring it back to power in the politically important position of Tbilisi mayor. The nomination of Zaal Udumashvili, host of the main news program on Georgia’s largest TV channel Rustavi 2,

Legal reform

Georgian president slams blueprint for new Constitution

by | Jun 24

TBILISI, DFWatch--President Giorgi Margvelashvili rejects a draft new Constitution presented by the ruling GD government because it is not based on a consensus. “The entire Georgian society believes we need a consensus document, but Georgian Dream

Media

Azerbaijani RFE/RL journalist detained, barred from leaving country

by | Jun 22

TBILISI, DFWatch--A journalist at Radio Free Europe’s now closed office in Azerbaijan was detained on Thursday and told that he cannot leave the country. Kamran Mahmudov, a former producer for RFE/RL, was detained at the border on the way into Georgia and taken to the

Legal reform

Georgia’s ruling GD party demurring on electoral reform

by | Jun 19

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s ruling party will defer until 2024 to fulfill one of its main promises: to overhaul an election system that has favored the incumbent force for decades. The system of single-mandate districts, so-called majoritarians, was supposed to have been phased out

Economy

Georgia’s parliament approves immediate halt in sale of farm land to foreigners

by | Jun 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian parliament decided Friday to declare a temporary ban on the sale of agricultural lands to aliens until a constitutional ban comes into force. 87 MPs voted in favor of the amendment to the Law on Ownership of Agricultural Land, amid fierce pressure

News

European Parliament calls on Georgia to investigate journalist’s disappearance

by | Jun 16

TBILISI, DFWatch--The EU Parliament calls on Georgia to thoroughly investigate the disappearance of an Azerbaijani investigative journalist in the center of Tbilisi two weeks ago. MEPs further urge Baku to immediately release Afgan Mukhtarli and drop all charges.

Youth

Rappers whose arrest sparked review of drug policy released on bail

by | Jun 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Appeals Court in Georgia released on bail two rappers whose controversial arrest on drug charges may have hastened a review of the drug policy. The court released the two on bail Monday after their arrest June 10 for possession of between 1.5 and 2.3 grams

Youth

PM responds to groundswell of support for Georgia’s jailed rappers

by | Jun 11

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia's prime minister promised to soften the country's drug policy Saturday evening as a large crowd gathered in the capital Tbilisi in support of two detained rappers who claim drugs were planted on them by police as revenge for a music video.

Environment

Tbilisi on edge as strong rain brings fear of ‘another 2015’

by | Jun 11

TBILISI, DFWatch--Strong rain with hail hit Tbilisi and some other parts of Georgia on Saturday, causing damage to cars, infrastructure and crops. As some Tbilisians feared a repeat of the tragic flooding in 2015, the police blocked Vake-Saburtalo Road in Tbilisi following advice

News

Azerbaijani MP claims Georgian intel collaborated on journalist’s abduction

by | Jun 10

TBILISI, DFWatch--A member of Azerbaijan’s parliament claims Georgian and Azerbaijani intelligence agencies collaborated on abducting a journalist in Tbilisi and send him back to Baku to face jail. Elman Nasirov, a member of Azerbaijan’s national assembly Mili Meclis,

News

Two rappers caught with ecstasy claim police planted drugs on them

by | Jun 10

TBILISI, DFWatch--The arrest of two rappers for drug crime in Georgia on Friday adds fuel to criticism against the country’s law enforcement agencies, which are already under fire for suspected involvement in the mysterious abduction out of the country of an Azerbaijani journalist eleven days ago.

Media

CEO of Georgia’s embattled opposition television station resigns

by | Jun 9

TBILISI, DFWatch--Rustavi 2 director general Nika Gvaramia resigns. Gvaramia's resignation was reported yesterday by several Georgian media outlets and confirmed Friday morning by one of the TV company’s editors who spoke to DFWatch on condition of anonymity.

Legal reform

Georgia’s ruling party bans sale of agricultural land to foreigners

by | Jun 9

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s ruling party has decided to ban the sale of agricultural land to foreigners by adding a clause to the Constitution. PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced Thursday that a passage will be added to the Constitution to ban the sale of land

Sport

Georgian world boxing champion arrested in the US

by | Jun 9

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Georgian world boxing champion has been arrested in the United States along with a martial arts practicioner, also from Georgia, for alleged ties to a Russian crime syndicate. Avtandil Khurtsidze, who currently holds a World Boxing Organization middleweight title,

In brief

Earthquake of magnitude 5.1 in eastern Georgia

by | Jun 8

TBILISI, DFWatch--An earthquake of magnitude 5.1 rattled Georgia late Wednesday evening with only minor damage reported in one village. The quake occurred at about 10.30pm with the epicenter near Dedoplistskaro in Kakheti, 100km east of Tbilisi,

Politics

TV news anchor may join race for new Tbilisi mayor

by | Jun 7

TBILISI, DFWatch--A news anchor on Georgia’s biggest private television channel has confirmed that he may run for mayor of Tbilisi as a candidate for the biggest opposition party UNM. The entry of Zaal Udumashvili, host of the evening news on Rustavi 2,

Media

Protesters put bags over their heads as parliament silent on Mukhtarli case

by | Jun 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian journalists covered their heads with plastic sacks during a meeting of the parliament’s human rights committee on Tuesday to protest the abduction of an Azerbaijani investigative journalist in Tbilisi. But the committee did not discuss

Politics

Georgia’s ruling party to tap energy minister as new Tbilisi mayor

by | Jun 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--The ruling party in Georgia is expected to name Energy Minister Kakhi Kaladze as its candidate for new Tbilisi mayor, to replace the incumbent Davit Narmania. Georgian Dream MPs and members of government met on Sunday behind closed

News

Georgian leaders send condolences to victims of London attacks

by | Jun 4

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s president and prime minister have expressed their condolences to the families of victims of the recent London terror attack, which left seven dead and over 48 injured. “I am deeply outraged over the brutal terrorist incidents in #London.

News

Georgian authorities deny involvement in abduction of Azerbaijani journalist

by | Jun 1

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia's head of government Thursday denied that his country's authorities had been involved when a journalist was abducted three days earlier in Tbilisi and delivered into the hands of Azerbaijani police for criminal prosecution.

Media

Abduction of Azerbaijani journalist sparks outrage in Tbilisi

by | May 31

TBILISI, DFWatch--Activists rallied in Tbilisi on Wednesday against the apparent abduction and return to Azerbaijan of an investigative journalist who had criticized the Aliyev regime. Journalists and rights activists rallied outside the government office

News

Journalist who sought refuge in Georgia abducted to Azerbaijan

by | May 31

TBILISI, DFWatch--An investigative journalist who fled Azerbaijan and sought asylum in neighboring Georgia was abducted by unknown men in Tbilisi on Monday and taken across the border to his home country. Journalist Afgan Mukhtali is now being held in Baku,

News

Murder plot against Georgian patriarch allegedly revealed

by | May 29

TBILISI, DFWatch--A lawyer for the Georgian church claimed on Monday that there is a plot to assassinate the head of the church, involving high-level clerics. One of the clerics implicated in the attempt on Patriarch’s life is Metropolitan Petre Tsaava, according to

News

Opposition candidates vying to unseat unpopular Tbilisi mayor

by | May 28

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s second largest opposition party named a woman as its candidate for Tbilisi Mayor on Saturday. The European Dream party congress nominated Elene Khoshtaria (37) as mayoral candidate as political parties are gearing up for the local elections.

News

Georgia detains school manager connected to Gülen network

by | May 26

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has detained a manager of a private school in what appears to be a case of pressure exerted by Turkey on Georgian authorities to crack down on institutions associated with the exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen. Mustafa Emre Cabuk, quality manager

Crime

State auditor shown holding pistol in bar in new online video

by | May 24

TBILISI, DFWatch--A new video of a public auditor pointing a pistol in a bar last December further undermined his claim that a recent fight with an ex-prosecutor was corruption related. The video surfaced on the Internet on Wednesday, and shows state auditor Lasha Tordia

Crime

MIA presents video, auditor maintains bar fight was corruption related

by | May 23

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Ministry of Internal Affairs released a surveillance video and witness testimony on Monday which appeared to undermine claims by the country's top public auditor that a recent bar fight was connected to a corruption probe. But the low resolution

News

Prosecutors drop case against Georgian ECHR judge’s brother

by | May 21

TBILISI, DFWatch--Prosecutors in Georgia have dropped a case against the brother of a judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) who said the investigation was connected to her work. None Tsotsoria (center) is a judge currently serving at the European Court of Human Rights. The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia (POG) called off the probe

Crime

Georgian priest walks out on first day of his murder trial

by | May 20

TBILISI, DFWatch--A high profile trial of a Georgian priest accused of planning to murder the patriarch’s personal secretary got off to a dramatic start Friday as the defendant left the courtroom in protest and asked his lawyers to do the same. This was the first hearing

Minorities

Gay pride film screening canceled in Tbilisi after bomb threat

by | May 20

TBILISI, DFWatch--The screening of a gay pride film in a Tbilisi park had to be canceled Friday evening after someone called in a bomb threat. LGBT people, rights activists and others, mainly youth, had gathered in Mziuri Park for a screening of the British historical comedy

News

Georgian ECHR judge: ‘Raid of my brother’s flat was related to my job’

by | May 20

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Georgian judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) suspects that a police raid against her brother’s apartment was connected to her work. “I have reason to believe that [the police raid] is related to my work at the European Court of Human Rights.

News

Russia and Abkhazia establish joint center to combat organized crime

by | May 19

TBILISI, DFWatch--Separatist authorities in Georgia's breakaway region Abkhazia signed an agreement with Russia on Thursday, establishing a joint Russian-Abkhaz coordination center in Sokhumi to combat organized crime and other serious crimes. The joint

News

UNM claims police search of judge’s brother’s flat is political pressure

by | May 19

TBILISI, DFWatch--The opposition in Georgia claims the police raided the flat of a judge's brother to put pressure on the judge after an unfavorable decision in the ECHR. Police carried out a raid Thursday night in the flat of brother of a judge who currently represents Georgia

Politics

Public meeting about new constitution interrupted by protests

by | May 18

TBILISI, DFWatch--A public meeting in Tbilisi on Monday to discuss a set of constitutional amendments was interrupted by two different groups of protesters. The head of the organizing committee now says they will extend the hearing process with a number of extra

Minorities

Four years after violence, Tbilisi’s LGBT activists meet under tight security

by | May 18

TBILISI, DFWatch--Four years after a mob of thousands of people violently attacked them, Georgia’s LGBT community needed strict security to observe The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on Wednesday. Several

News

EU envoy sparks outrage in Tbilisi by congratulating Russia-backed separatist leader

by | May 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--A European Union official congratulating the leader of a Russian-backed breakaway republic on winning the election has caused a diplomatic scandal in Tbilisi. Herbert Salber, a German diplomat who is the EU’s special representative to South Caucasus

News

Court told ex-president Saakashvili protected Girgvliani’s murderers

by | May 16

TBILISI, DFWatch--A former minister claimed Georgian ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili protected several high ranking officials from prosecution as the high-profile trial about the murder of a young bank employee in Georgia eleven years ago continued in Tbilisi on Monday.

News

Top state auditor stays away from police questioning for health reasons

by | May 15

TBILISI, DFWatch--The head of Georgia’s state audit office refused to be questioned by police on Monday, after alleging that a former chief prosecutor attacked him at a bar Friday night. Lasha Tordia excused himself on the grounds of his poor health condition after Friday's incident

News

State auditor says former chief prosecutor assaulted him at bar

by | May 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--The head of Georgia’s State Audit Office claims an investigation into a land plot scheme was the reason he was physically assaulted by a former chief prosecutor and his associates at a bar in Tbilisi Friday night. General Auditor Lasha Tordia (37) said he was attacked

Minorities

Batumi City Hall turns down request to build second mosque

by | May 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--The city hall in Georgia's second largest city Batumi has rejected an application for permission to build a second mosque in the 150,000 strong city. In the largely Muslim city there has been a several decades long conflict about whether to allow a second mosque.

Prisoner abuse

Six former prison guards in Georgia will face trial for torture

by | May 12

TBILISI, DFWatch--Six former guards at the notorious Penitentiary No 8 in Tbilisi have been detained for alleged torture of prisoners during the presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili. Legal proceedings have been launched against former Head of Legal Regimen of the same facility,

In brief

Five villages cut off from the world after river thrashes road in Georgia

by | May 12

TBILISI, DFWatch--A rain-swelled river on Thursday cut off the only road to five villages in the northern part of Georgia, leaving the inhabitants isolated from the rest of the world. The river Vedura swelled after several days of hard rain in the Upper Svaneti region.

News

Georgia bars former Moscow mayor Luzhkov from entering

by | May 11

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has placed the former mayor of Moscow on its 'black list' of people barred from entering the country. Yuri Luzhkov was briefly in Georgia last weekend and the opposition called for his prosecution for violating a 2008 law. When Luzhkov’s tourist trip became

News

Protesters demand safer workplaces after four die in coal mine

by | May 10

TBILISI, DFWatch--Three people were detained in Tbilisi on Tuesday during a protest in response to a mining accident that took four lives earlier the same day. The protesters from student group Auditorium #115 and trade union activists gathered in front of the

News

Two Russian bikers turn up at May 9 event in Georgia despite ban

by | May 9

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two members of the notorious Russian motorcycle gang Night Wolves turned up in Tbilisi’s Vake Park on Tuesday for the May 9 commemoration of victory over Nazism in World War II, despite the gang’s members being banned from entering Georgia.

News

Georgian opposition calls for former Moscow mayor to be punished

by | May 9

TBILISI, DFWatch--An otherwise uneventful tourist visit to Georgia by the former mayor of Moscow was interrupted by opposition calls for him to be 'punished'. Word spread of Yuri Luzhkov’s visit to Georgia after priest Serafim Bit-Kharibi posted photos

Crime

Georgian priest must remain in detention until beginning of murder trial

by | May 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Georgian priest accused of planning to poison an adviser to the patriarch is to remain in pre-trial detention. That was decided at a hearing in the Tbilisi City Court on Friday. The judge rejected all the around a dozen pleas by arch priest

News

Russian bikers denied entry to Georgia for WWII commemoration

by | May 4

TBILISI, DFWatch--Nearly 50 Russian pro-Kremlin bikers were stopped at the border on Wednesday as they were trying to enter Georgia in connection with an annual tour to commemorate the end of World War II. The bikers were not given an explanation for why they were denied entry,

Politics

Georgian opposition wants referendum about constitutional changes

by | May 2

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian opposition groups said Monday that the country’s democratic development is being reversed unless a set of constitutional amendments is stopped. The groups demand a referendum about the changes. In a declaration, the opposition listed eight

News

Russian biker gang Night Wolves plans Georgia trip

by | Apr 29

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Russian biker gang Night Wolves plans to visit Georgia to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the end of World War II. The gang is known for its support of the Kremlin and leader Alexander Zaldostanov (“the Surgeon”) has appeared at many

Crime

Georgian priest on trial for planning to murder patriarch’s adviser

by | Apr 28

TBILISI, DFWatch--A priest is being put on trial in Georgia for planning to use poison to murder a close adviser to Patriarch Ilia II, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church. As the case files were handed over to the court on Thursday, the Prosecutor General’s Office wrote in a statement that

Crime

Woman found strangled, ex-husband arrested as suspect

by | Apr 26

TBILISI, DFWatch--A mother of four was found strangled in Tbilisi on Tuesday. Police suspect her ex-husband who was arrested soon after. Miranda Vacheishvili (40) was apparently strangled with a lead wire. She was living in an uptown district of the capital, and had complained

Economy

Georgia’s auto park continued 8% growth trend in 2016

by | Apr 24

TBILISi, DFWatch--The number of cars in Georgia grew 8 percent in 2016, continuing a trend of steady expansion of the nation’s auto park of mostly older vehicles. The growth in 2016 was to 1,125, which is 8 percent, with German carmakers retaining their leading positions.

News

Pregnant woman among five killed in car crash near Kutaisi, Georgia

by | Apr 23

TBILISI, DFWatch--A pregnant woman was among the five who were killed in a horrendous road accident along a highway in western Georgia on Sunday. The accident happened at night, along a highway near Kutaisi in the west of the country. First two cars collided head-on,

Politics

Georgia inches closer to one-party rule with new draft Constitution

by | Apr 23

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia is moving closer to one-party rule, opposition groups warn, as a new round of constitutional amendments was approved by a commission on Saturday. Georgians are no strangers to changing their Constitution, but the latest set of amendments 

Society

Dropping a cigarette butt in Tbilisi now costs you USD 33

by | Apr 21

TBILISI, DFWatch--Littering in the Georgian capital may now cost you a fine of 80 laris (USD 33). This includes dropping cigarette butts. 14 people were fined as the new regulation began being enforced on Thursday. 13 of them were fined for dropping cigarette butts in the streets.

Politics

Georgian MP injured after colleague throws ashtray, hits wrong person

by | Apr 19

TBILISI, DFWatch--A member of the Georgian parliament was lightly injured on Wednesday, after a verbal and physical confrontation that led to an ashtray being hurled at his face. Otar Kakhidze was accidentally hit by an ashtray during a confrontation

In brief

Iran’s FM Zarif visiting Georgia

by | Apr 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif began a two day visit to Georgia on Monday. Zarif will meet with his Georgian counterpart as well as the president, the prime minister and the minister of economy and sustainable development.

News

Georgian Airways plane rolls off runway at Moscow airport

by | Apr 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--No-one was injured when a passenger jet belonging to Georgian Airways went past the end of the runway at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on Sunday after landing. The Boeing-737 had just arrived from Tbilisi with 106 passengers and six crew members on board.

News

Russia’s FM Lavrov to visit Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia

by | Apr 14

TBILISI, DFWatch--Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit the Georgian breakaway region Abkhazia next week to open a new Russian embassy and meet with the local leadership. Lavrov’s working visit will start April 18 with the official opening of a new Russian embassy

News

Georgian priest suspected of murder suing government for unfair trial

by | Apr 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--A priest awaiting trial for murder is suing Georgia at the European Court of Human Rights, claiming the country is depriving him of a fair trial. Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze is  accused of planning to poison a member of the Georgian patriarch’s inner circle.

Security

Georgia to get rid of its SU-25 in favor of drones and helicopters

by | Apr 12

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia is getting rid of its Soviet era Su-25 attack aircraft, and will instead rely on military helicopters and drones, the country’s defense minister said. Su-25 is a severely outdated aircraft which requires spare parts that are produced in Russia,

Security

South Ossetia declares de facto presidential election valid

by | Apr 10

TBILISI, DFWatch--South Ossetia’s de facto authorities have declared the election for a new leader of the separatist region valid. According to latest news, assembly speaker Anatoly Bibilov is in the lead. He has already declared victory, but it is still not known whether he will get more than 50 percent,

Politics

Georgian president accuses ruling GD of stalling democratic reforms

by | Apr 7

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on Friday slammed the governing GD party for dragging its feet on the way to further democratic reforms and claimed there is a ‘crisis’ in the justice system. The president launched the broadside during

Society

Georgia bans smoking indoors and at sports arenas

by | Apr 5

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia will introduce a blanket ban on smoking indoors, after parliament approved a bill proposed in February. The ban covers smoking in buildings and includes a tough package of fines to ensure that it is followed, prescribing fines of up to 5,000 lari (over USD 2,000).

News

Bomb scare causes evacuation of Metekhi Bridge

by | Apr 5

TBILISI, DFWatch--A false bomb alert caused a bridge close to a restaurant district in Tbilisi to be evacuated Wednesday afternoon. Passers-by noticed a suspicious suitcase on the sidewalk of Metekhi Bridge at around 6pm. Police sealed off the tourist destination,

News

Ex-official brutally attacked in Tbilisi

by | Apr 4

TBILISI, DFWatch--Unknown assailants brutally beat a former interior ministry official in Tbilisi Monday morning. The two masked men assaulted Gela Khvedelidze, a former deputy interior minister, close to his home in the center of Tbilisi, as he was leaving his flat.

Media

Rustavi 2 web domain hijacked by former owners

by | Apr 3

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s embattled opposition TV company Rustavi 2 has lost control over its web domain and has had to switch to a different address to stay online. In a statement posted online on its new address, Rustavi 2 blamed former owner David Dvali

News

Former vice speaker of parliament found guilty of embezzlement

by | Apr 2

TBILISI, DFWatch--A former vice speaker of parliament in Georgia has been sentenced to four years in prison. Rusudan Kervalishvili (62), who served as vice speaker of parliament in 2008-2012 representing the National Movement, was detained inside the courtroom after the verdict.

Europe

Georgia isn’t implementing law it passed in return for visa-free travel to Europe

by | Apr 2

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia passed a law against discrimination three years ago, and in return the European Union gave its citizens visa-free travel to Europe. But the local human rights watchdog now says the anti-discrimination law is not being fully implemented.

NGO news

Open Society criticizes Hungary’s government for anti-NGO law

by | Mar 31

Open Society Foundations criticizes the  Hungarian government and accuses it of trying to silence academic freedom by proposing a law against internationally funded NGOs, which will make it ‘impossible’ for the Central European University in Budapest to operate.

NGO news

CSOs’ statement on alleged revocation of self-governing status from seven Georgian cities

by | Mar 29

Statement of Civil Society and Media organizations against alleged revocation of the status from the-now seven self-governing cities in Georgia

News

Georgia detains Ukrainian ex-official linked to Yanukovich

by | Mar 29

TBILISI, DFWatch--An ally of the exiled former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich has been detained in Tbilisi by Interpol on suspicion of corruption. Igor Kiriushin (59), a veteran official at the Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy, was detained at Tbilisi airport on Saturday

Europe

Georgians celebrate start of visa-free travel to Europe

by | Mar 28

TBILISI, DFWatch--There were celebrations in the capital Tbilisi on Monday as Georgian nationals may travel without a visa to Europe's vast borderless Schengen area from March 28. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili was among government officials who attended a two

In brief

Rustavi 2 owners offer to hand shares over to staff

by | Mar 25

TBILISI, DFWatch--The owners of Georgia’s biggest opposition TV station have offered to hand over a controlling stake in the company to its staff. The brothers Giorgi and Levan Karamanishvili published an open letter to the staff of Rustavi 2 staff on Friday, offering them shares in the embattled TV company.

News

Activists claim police are planting drugs on government critics

by | Mar 23

TBILISI, DFWatch--The daughter of the president of Georgia claims police framed her friend because he has been involved in political work for the president. It used to be an oft-heard story during the Saakashvili presidency: regime critics who are set up by police planting drugs in their pocket. But now activists raise the alarm and say police are again placing drugs on people connected to the opposition in order to get them hooked for a crime. A crowd of protesters gathered in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs building in Tbilisi on Wednesday to protest the resurgent practice. Incredibly, the daughter the serving head of state was among the protesters. Ana Margvelashvili, daughter of President Giorgi Margvelashvili, claims that when her friend was detained recently, it was part of what the activists call ‘the repressive drug policies’ of the law enforcement agencies. Ana’s friend, Mikheil Tatarashvili, was detained on March 17 for possessing Subutex, a brand name of buprenorphine; a synthetic opioid used to treat drug addiction which is illegal in Georgia. Now the president’s daughter insists that her friend was detained because of his links to ...

News

11-year-old girl killed by car in Tbilisi

by | Mar 22

TBILISI, DFWatch--An 11 year old girl was killed in a car crash on the outskirts of Tbilisi on Tuesday. The tragic accident occurred in the morning hours Tuesday on Aghmashenebeli Lane on the northern outskirts of the city. The car, presumably a BMW,

In brief

Houses damaged, trees overturned by overnight storm in Tbilisi

by | Mar 21

TBILISI, DFWatch--Strong wind hit Tbilisi Monday evening, uprooting tens of trees and damaging houses and street signs. Monday night at 10pm, the wind reached a speed of up to 32 meters per second in the capital. This qualifies as a hurricane,

Politics

Georgian president vetoes controversial surveillance bill

by | Mar 20

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on Monday vetoed a surveillance bill which civil society groups claim does not go far enough in reining in the powers of the secret police. Also opposition parties have criticized the bill. They suspect that it will give

News

Eight more detained as blame game continues after ‘parking fine riot’

by | Mar 19

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police detained eight more people on criminal charges on Saturday as the blame game continues for last weekend's violent riot in Batumi. Altogether, the number of detainees has now reached 100, all of them men, the local newspaper Batumelebi reports.  

News

Hungarian tourist killed by avalanche in Georgia

by | Mar 18

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Hungarian tourist died in an avalanche in Georgia on Friday while skiing near Gudauri, a mountain resort north of Tbilisi. Authorities did not identity the victim beyond describing him as a man aged around 40. The accident occurred when a group of tourists

Crime

Spanish police detain 48 in raids against Georgian robbery gangs

by | Mar 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--Spanish police have arrested dozens of Georgian nationals suspected of home burglaries in an elaborate operation said to be targeting ‘the Georgian mafia’. The police released information on Thursday but operations were carried out earlier,

News

Six more arrests in wake of Batumi ‘parking fine riot’

by | Mar 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police in Georgia arrested six more people on Thursday who are suspected of having been involved in a riot in the Black Sea city Batumi last weekend that started with a disagreement over a parking fine. The six are expected to appear in court on Friday.

News

Two drug arrests of UNM-linked youth raise calls of politicized justice

by | Mar 16

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two young men related to government critics were arrested in Tbilisi on Tuesday on drug charges. Their mothers think it was politically motivated. One of the detainees is the son of Khatia Dekanoidze, a justice specialist who introduced Georgian experience with police reforms to Ukraine

In brief

Sen. McCain encourages Georgia to preserve pluralistic media

by | Mar 15

Georgian court's decision regarding Rustavi 2 looks like 'an attempt to silence opposition voices', US Senator John McCain said to Voice of America's Georgian service. "I am deeply concerned that the Georgian Supreme Court’s decision regarding Rustavi 2 appears to be an attempt to silence opposition voices in the press and curtail the country’s vibrant, pluralistic, and open media," Republican Senator from Arizona states in a written comment to VoA's Ia Meurmishvili. "As I have said, I strongly believe that a free and open press is an essential pillar of democracy, and vital for any democracy to succeed. I encourage the Government of Georgia to preserve a pluralistic media environment so that all voices in Georgia can be heard."  

News

Rioters will be strictly punished, Georgia’s interior minister warns

by | Mar 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--Most who were detained in a riot in Batumi, Georgia have now been released, but the interior minister warned that they will be strictly punished. Seven people are still incarcerated after a court placed them in preliminary administrative detention,

News

Government and opposition trade accusations over Batumi riot

by | Mar 12

TBILISI, DFWatch--The government and the largest opposition party in Georgia are blaming each other for being behind a riot that shook the Black Sea resort city Batumi last night, injuring dozens and leaving the burgeoning tourist destination in disarray. A special unit

News

PM Kvirikashvili blames ‘destructive political forces’ for Batumi riot

by | Mar 12

TBILISI, DFWatch--“A common incident has been utilized by destructive political forces to escalate the situation,” Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated at an emergency briefing at about 5 am on Sunday appealing the crowd in Batumi to calm down. “Unfortunately, those forces

News

Around 20 police and protesters injured in riot over parking fine in Georgia

by | Mar 12

TBILISI, DFWatch--Around twenty police and protesters are injured after a riot broke out in Batumi, Georgia, Saturday evening over a disagreement about a parking fine. The riot began after a man refused to accept a fine for parking in the wrong place

NGO news

Campaigners in Georgia urge president to veto surveillance bill

by | Mar 11

TBILISI, DFWatch--An activist group in the former Soviet republic of Georgia urges the president to veto a secret surveillance bill and plans to sue the government in the European Court of Human Rights over the bill. The bill on secret surveillance was adopted

Legal reform

Escalating rhetoric between Georgia’s parliament and president

by | Mar 9

TBILISI, DFWatch--A meeting summoned by the Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has become the latest episode in the downward spiral of deteriorating relations between him and the ruling Georgian Dream party. On Thursday, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze

News

Prosecutors release secret videos in the Georgia’s church poisoning case

by | Mar 8

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Prosecutor's Office of Georgia on Wednesday presented its theory of how a priest allegedly was planning to murder an adviser to Patriarch Ilia II, backing the allegations up by secretly obtained videos. The central part of the evidence

Europe

EU denies link between Georgia visa waiver and refugee centers proposal

by | Mar 8

TBILISI, DFWatch--A member of the European Unions executive branch denies that there is any connection between a proposal to host refugee centers in Georgia and the recent decision to allow visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Georgian passport holders.

In brief

ECHR suspends Rustavi 2 takeover ‘until further notice’

by | Mar 7

TBILISI, DFWatch--The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday confirmed a decision by one of its judges to suspend a ruling by Georgia’s Supreme Court about changing the ownership of the opposition-leaning TV company Rustavi 2. "A Chamber constituted from the Section

Europe

Georgia rejects idea of hosting refugee center for EU

by | Mar 7

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia distances itself from a controversial statement by the Austrian minister of foreign affairs, who proposed establishing refugees’ centers outside the borders of the EU, including in Georgia. “There are no plans to set up refugee camps

Media

Georgian PM proposes creating new media ombudsman post

by | Mar 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s prime minister proposes creating an office of media ombudsman. The PM's proposal comes at the same time as the situation surrounding a lawsuit about the country’s most popular TV company remains in a deadlock. After a meeting with PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili

Media

Georgia’s embattled TV station Rustavi 2 plans new rally on Saturday

by | Mar 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--Embattled Georgian TV channel Rustavi 2 plans another rally in Tbilisi on Saturday to protest what it claims is an attempt by authorities to silence free speech in the country. On March 3, Georgia’s Supreme Court upheld a decision to change ownership of Rustavi 2.

News

Leaders of Georgia’s Orthodox Church gather to discuss poisoning plot

by | Mar 5

TBILISI, DFWatch--When top clerics within the Georgian Orthodox Church gather for a Holy Synod on March 9, there are several difficult problems on their agenda, notably a priest accused of planning to murder someone in the patriarch’s inner circle. The Synod is the highest authority

News

Gvaramia: ECHR has suspended Georgian Supreme Court ruling

by | Mar 3

TBILISI, DFWatch--The director of Georgia’s largest opposition TV company says the European Court of Human Rights has decided to temporarily suspend a ruling by the former Soviet republic’s Supreme Court which changes the ownership of the company, Rustavi 2.

News

Georgia’s president advises all sides invlolved in Rustavi 2 case to refrain from hasty steps

by | Mar 3

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian president on Friday stepped into the tense situation surrounding the largest TV station in the country, urging all sides to refrain from undertaking 'immediate' action. The decision led to a protest

Legal reform

Georgia’s ruling party postpones switch to indirect election of president

by | Mar 3

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian Dream is backing down on a previous pledge to phase out the use of direct elections to select a president already from next year. Instead, the ruling coalition plans to introduce the change from the 2023 election. “The rules of presidential

Media

Vigil held as Georgia’s embattled TV station vows to block takeover

by | Mar 3

TBILISI, DFWatch--Opposition activists and supporters of Rustavi 2 held a vigil at the studio complex last night, after the Supreme Court upheld a decision to hand ownership of the embattled TV company over to a private investor who critics fear will silence the government’s

Media

Georgia Supreme Court upholds decision to change Rustavi 2 ownership

by | Mar 3

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Supreme Court in the former Soviet republic of Georgia has controversially upheld a decision to take away ownership of the country’s biggest opposition TV channel and hand it to a private investor. Critics say the decision will effectively silence

Media

Georgia Supreme Court begins review of Rustavi 2 case Thursday

by | Mar 2

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Supreme Court in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on Thursday begins to review a highly publicised lawsuit about the ownership over the country's biggest TV channel. The case concerns who shall control 100 percent of shares in Rustavi 2,

Europe

Georgian PM signs visa waiver document with EU

by | Mar 2

TBILISI, DFWatch--After years of negotiations, Georgia’s prime minister finally signed an agreement with the EU on Wednesday which gives his country’s citizens the right to visa-free travel to the Schengen area. The visa waiver plan will be published in the EU

News

Detained Georgian priest curses prosecutors and law enforcers

by | Mar 1

TBILISI, DFWatch--Prosecutors in Georgia are still unable to interrogate archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze who is accused of murder attempt of an unidentified person from patriarch's inner circle. "Instead of responding to our critical questions, he cursed us,

News

NATO concerned about closure of Abkhazia checkpoints

by | Feb 28

TBILISI, DFWatch--NATO is concerned that the closure of two crossing points between the breakaway region Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia may have adverse impact on the local population. A spokesperson for the alliance on Tuesday asked for the de facto authorities

Europe

EU gives final go-ahead for Georgians to enter Schengen without visa

by | Feb 28

TBILISI, DFWatch--A visa waiver system for Georgian citizens was given the final approval by the EU Council on Monday, and now only formalities remain until 3.7 million citizens of the Caucasus nation can enjoy up to 90 days trips to Europe’s vast borderless Schengen area

Sport

Georgian judo team takes two gold at Düsseldorf Grand Prix

by | Feb 27

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian judo team performed brilliantly at Düsseldorf Grand Prix with two gold medals and second place ahead of Russia and France. The team from Japan won the competition with five gold medals. Vazha Margvelashvili (-66 kg) and Beka Gviniashvili (-90 kg)

News

Second Georgian contractor held captive in DRC named

by | Feb 27

TBILISI, DFWatch--The second of two Georgian pilots who were taken prisoner by rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been identified as Vyacheslav Pluzhnikov. Pluzhnikov has a background from the Georgian air force. He was arrested for alleged espionage

News

Patriarch’s head of security resigns, citing ‘intrigues’

by | Feb 27

TBILISI, DFWatch--In the latest twist in the scandal about an alleged assassination plot within the Georgian Church, the head of the patriarch’s security detail confirmed Sunday that he has resigned from his post. "I went to his holiness… [and] asked for his blessing to left the position,”

News

Aerosmith concert in Georgia sold out in three hours

by | Feb 26

TBILISI, DFWatch--Tickets for an Aerosmith concert in Georgia on May 20 went on sale Saturday and were sold out in three hours. Tickets were bought not only by Georgians, but also customers from neighboring Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Tickets for the concert, which will take

Politics

Georgian opposition party will not face charges for planting pot

by | Feb 25

TBILISI, DFWatch--Members of an opposition party in the former Soviet republic of Georgia will not be prosecuted for planting cannabis in their office on New Year’s Eve because the saplings contained too little of the forbidden narcotic substance. The New Year’s Eve pot

News

Azerbaijan’s president confident pipeline across Turkey will go ahead

by | Feb 24

TBILISI, DFWatch--Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev is certain that nothing can prevent the construction of a new pipeline from his country to the European mainland. As a major producer of natural gas, the Caspian Sea nation has much to gain from the planned Southern Gas Corridor,

News

Two Georgians held captive in DR Congo after military helicopter crash

by | Feb 23

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two Georgian private contractors are being held captive in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after the military helicopter they were in crash landed in the east of the country nearly a month ago. Georgia’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday

News

Georgia’s church poisoning case still a mystery

by | Feb 23

TBILISI, DFWatch--Breaking an earlier promise, Georgia’s top prosecutor did not release new evidence about an alleged assassination attempt in the Georgian Orthodox Church upon the return of the patriarch, leaving the public in the dark and the case shrouded in mystery.

News

Georgia may ban smoking indoors and at sports arenas

by | Feb 21

TBILISI, DFWatch--Lawmakers in Georgia are pondering a blanket ban on smoking indoors which will also cover sports stadiums and all forms of public transport. If the bill is passed, smoking will be prohibited inside all kinds of buildings, except for private homes, laboratories

Politics

Georgia’s parliament has 41 millionaires

by | Feb 20

TBILISI, DFWatch--41 members of the Georgian parliament are millionaires (in GELs); 37 persons from the Georgian Dream majority and 4 members of two opposition parties, United National Movement and Alliance of Patriots. There are six millionaire ministers

News

New details expected in ‘cyanide affair’ as patriarch returns from Berlin

by | Feb 20

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia expects new details to emerge about an alleged assassination attempt in the higher circles of the Orthodox Church, as Patriarch Ilia II has left the hospital in Berlin and is expected to arrive in Tbilisi at around 6pm Monday local time.

Politics

Ex-laywer elected new Free Democrats leader

by | Feb 19

TBILISI, DFWatch--A former lawyer has been elected chairman of the embattled Free Democrats, perhaps the most staunchly pro-western party in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The Free Democrats’ failure to win any seats in the 2016 parliamentary elections coupled with

Media

Rustavi 2 rallies supporters to defend freedom of expression

by | Feb 19

TBILISI, DFWatch--A rally is underway in the center of Tbilisi to show solidarity with Rustavi 2, as a decision is expected in the Supreme Court that could change its ownership, and - according to supporters of the TV company - bring its criticism of the government to a halt.

News

Georgia’s biggest opposition TV station goes dark to protest ‘injustice’

by | Feb 18

TBILISI, DFWatch--The biggest opposition TV station in the former Soviet republic of Georgia has voluntarily suspended its broadcast for two days to protest what it claims is an attempt by the government to silence it. "It was not an easy decision[…] but today we are left

Environment

Massive snowfall causing problems in western Georgia

by | Feb 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--Massive snowfall is causing problems in western Georgia, especially the two regions Samegrelo and Svaneti, where the snow cover in some places exceeds one meter. An avalanche cut off an important road connecting Zugdidi and Mestia, the administrative centers

News

Target of Georgia Church poisoning attempt was patriarch’s adviser

by | Feb 16

TBILISI, DFWatch--Top prosecutors in Georgia now say the target of an assassination attempt within the Orthodox Church was not the patriarch, but one of his advisers. In an interview with the newspaper Rezonansi, POG spokeswoman Natia Sukhiashvili specifically

Economy

Wizz Air launches low-cost flights between London and Kutaisi

by | Feb 16

TBILISI, DFWatch--Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air is launching cheap flights between London Luton and Kutaisi, a city in the western Imereti region of Georgia. United Airports Georgia announced the direct flights Kutaisi-London-Kutaisi two times per week, on Thursdays

News

Georgia reacts to arrest of priest on murder attempt charges

by | Feb 15

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgians are reacting to the detention of an Orthodox priest whom prosecutors accuse of trying to poison a high church official, widely believed to be the head of the Georgian Church. The story immediately went viral in Georgia, where the Orthodox Church

Politics

13 UNM activists arrested at rally outside Tbilisi City Hall

by | Feb 14

TBILISI, DFWatch--A demonstration in front of Tbilisi City Hall on Monday turned violent when activists for the United National Movement (UNM) tried to break into City Hall in order to meet Mayor Davit Narmania. Thirteen members of the opposition supporters were

News

Georgian priest arrested for planning to murder high church leader with poison

by | Feb 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--An archpriest in the Georgian Orthodox Church was arrested at Tbilisi airport, accused of trying to poison a person in ‘the Church’s highest hierarchy’ with cyanide. Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze was arrested as he was trying to board a plane

News

Georgian man sentenced to twenty years in prison in breakaway region

by | Feb 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--A court in South Ossetia has sentenced a Georgian man to 20 years in a Tskhinvali jail for ‘sabotage and terrorist activities’. 49 year-old Giorgi Giunashvili, a native of the village Disevi inside the breakaway region, was arrested by Tskhinvali forces

Legal reform

Georgian parliament overturns president’s veto of judicial bill

by | Feb 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--Opposition parties in the former Soviet republic of Georgia warn that the independence of the courts will be weakened after the ruling party overturned the president’s veto against a judicial reform bill. The so-called third wave of judicial reform was vetoed

Caucasus region

Russian-backed enclave plans referendum about naming itself after medieval tribe

by | Feb 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--Russian-backed separatists who have ruled a region of Georgia since the early 1990s plan to name their self-declared republic after a nomadic tribe that conquered swaths of Europe and North Africa in the Middle Ages. If the 50,000 population approves

News

51 people jailed for entering Georgia’s breakaway territories the wrong way

by | Feb 11

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has jailed 51 persons over the last nine years for entering Abkhazia or South Ossetia from the wrong direction. The ombudsman now calls for a review of the law. Georgia’s Law on the Occupied Territories

News

UNM activists rally outside Supreme Court to save their TV station

by | Feb 11

TBILISI, DFWatch--Activists from Georgia’s former ruling party gathered in front of the Supreme Court building in Tbilisi on Friday to support their TV station, Rustavi 2, in a private lawsuit that could dampen down its criticism of the government. The activists marched down

News

Rustavi 2 airs allegations against former deptuty chief prosecutor

by | Feb 10

TBILISI, DFWatch--A fiercely anti-government TV station in Georgia aired allegations against a former high-level prosecutor purporting that he had tried to sell a secret recordings of a former prime minister and billionaire. The word fight was launched during

Minorities

Four transgender women attacked at Tbilisi nightclub

by | Feb 8

TBILISI, DFWatch--Four transgender women are being treated for cuts after an attack at a nightclub in downtown Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The incident occurred at 7am Monday on Elbakidze Street, near Rustaveli, one of the main metro stations in the city.

Media

UNM to rally to stop Supreme Court ruling against Rustavi 2

by | Feb 8

TBILISI, DFWatch--Activists from Georgia’s former ruling party are rallying in Tbilisi on February 10 in order to prevent the Supreme Court from ruling against the top people in the largest opposition TV station. UNM's Nika Melia said on Wednesday that the party of ex-President

News

Text messages ‘prove’ Saakashvili ally pressured Georgia Supreme Court judges

by | Feb 7

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s top prosecutor on Tuesday presented text messages allegedly sent from Ukraine as proof that a close ally of former President Mikheil Saakashvili had tried to put pressure on two Supreme Court judges in a lawsuit that could silence

Crime

Georgian sentenced to 13 years for killing a transgender woman

by | Feb 7

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Georgian man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for stabbing and killing a transgender woman acquaintance in Tbilisi last year. Tbilisi City Court decided to sentence 31 year-old Giorgi Murjikneli to 10 years in jail for  viciously attacking and cutting

News

Georgia cracks down on private school linked to Gulen network

by | Feb 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian authorities have suspended the accreditation of a private school with links to the Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara has accused of plotting the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The council of the National Center

In brief

Georgia Supreme Court judges silent about who pressured them

by | Feb 5

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two Supreme Court judges in the former Soviet republic of Georgia have still not revealed who tried to put pressure on them in a case about the ownership of a large TV station critical to the government. Judges Besarion Arveladze and Paata Katamadze,

Europe

Abkhazia suspicious of Georgia’s offer of visa-free travel to Europe

by | Feb 4

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia offers inhabitants in the breakaway region Abkhazia to be included in a visa waiver scheme to the Schengen area. Sukhumi calls the offer manipulation. The EU parliament on Thursday voted in favor of extending

News

Two of Georgia’s Supreme Court judges claim they were pressured

by | Feb 3

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two judges in the Supreme Court of the former Soviet republic of Georgia have filed a formal request to the country’s top prosecutor to investigate an attempt to influence them. The case led to an exchange of strong claims and counterclaims on Friday,

Media

Imedi-GDS merger heralds further consolidation in Georgian TV

by | Feb 3

TBILISI, DFWatch--Imedi TV, one of Georgia’s largest TV stations, has bought GDS, a smaller company linked with billionaire and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. Imedi confirmed that it had purchased 100 percent of shares in the broadcasting company

Europe

EU parliament greenlights visa-free entry for Georgians

by | Feb 2

TBILISI, DFWatch--The plan to extend visa-free entry into Schengen to more than 3 million citizens of the former Soviet republic of Georgia passed another hurdle today, as the EU’s parliament approved the plan with a clear majority. At a plenary session the 751 member assembly session endorsed

News

Georgian fighter seeks asylum in Ukraine to avoid extradition

by | Feb 2

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Georgian volunteer soldier in Ukraine is looking for political asylum in Ukraine, as he believes his life's in danger if he returns to his home country Georgia. Former Vice Colonel Gia Tsertsvadze is wanted in Russia for a murder in 2003. Recently

Politics

President, civil rights groups reject new surveillance regulations bill

by | Feb 1

TBILISI, DFWatch--A working group within the Georgian parliament on Monday proposed to establish a new agency under the State Security Service to monitor telephone and internet communications, as well as conduct video and audio eavesdropping.

News

2 military helicopters with Georgian crew crash in eastern Congo

by | Feb 1

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two Mi-24 military helicopters with a combined crew of at least four crashed on Friday in North Kivu province near the border with Rwanda and Uganda, authorities reported on Monday. Tbilisi based military magazine Arsenal wrote that

News

Terminated employees protesting in front of Georgia’s Defense Ministry

by | Jan 31

TBILISI, DFWatch--Hundreds of people protested outside the Defense Ministry on Monday against a mass layoff affecting over two thousand people, demanding fair treatment and respect for labor regulations. Protesters demand to get their jobs back and claim the ministry

Security

Georgia dismisses over 2,000 defense employees

by | Jan 30

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has carried out its biggest layoff ever, as more than two thousands employees were dismissed on Monday. Both military and civilian personnel were affected by the mass layoff. The ministry explained the firings

News

Massive fire at Tbilisi shopping mall spreads, rips through central bazaar

by | Jan 30

TBILISI, DFWatch--Thirty fire fighters in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi are trying to extinguish a massive fire that broke out Monday morning at a shopping mall near the city’s central railway station. The blaze has spread to surrounding buildings and engulfed

News

Georgians in Abkhazia protest closure of border crossings

by | Jan 29

TBILISI, DFWatch--Authorities in Abkhazia have closed Nabakevi and Otobaya border crossings connecting the breakaway region to Georgia proper. The closing of the two checkpoints was announced by Lasha Tsaava, head of the legal department of the de facto

News

Georgia’s president pardons former Defense Ministry officials

by | Jan 28

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian president on Friday pardoned five former defense ministry officials who were convicted of embezzlement in a politically charged case. The release of the five from prison Friday evening concludes one of the most significant

Education

Bologna inclusion lifted quality of Georgia’s education system

by | Jan 28

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has bolstered the quality of its higher education and research, thanks to its inclusion in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the authors of a new report argue. By joining the EHEA, popularly referred to as the Bologna process,

News

Georgian soldier freed by Kiev despite Russian extradition request

by | Jan 26

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Georgian volunteer soldier in Ukraine was released from pre-trial detention Thursday evening, thus avoiding extradition to Russia, where he is accused of a murder in 2003. Gia Tsertsvadze thanked his supporters as he left prison but declined making further comments.

News

Georgian PM lectures EPP head on separation of powers

by | Jan 26

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s prime minister gave an EU politician a lesson in the separation of powers in democracies on Tuesday, explaining that a government cannot interfere in decisions made by the courts. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the head of government

News

Georgian volunteer soldier’s arrest in Kiev stirs controversy in Georgia

by | Jan 26

TBILISI, DFWatch--The top prosecutor in Ukraine is calling off a criminal case against a Georgian man who volunteered to fight in the war in Donbass. The man is accused of a murder in Sochi in 2003 and risks extradition to Russia. His defense lawyer at the trial

News

Vano Merabishvili quits post in Saakashvili’s party

by | Jan 24

TBILISI, DFWatch--A former interior minister and close ally of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili resigned as secretary general of the National Movement on Monday, the latest episode of a turbulent few months for the party that reformed Georgia over the course of a decade.

News

Georgia ushers in bill to criminalize FGM after news report

by | Jan 24

TBILISI, DFWatch--The government in the former Soviet republic of Georgia has proposed a bill which will make it a crime to carry out female genital mutilation. The bill comes after a journalist revealed last fall that the practice was still in use in a few villages in the east of the country.

Politics

Republican Party appoints woman to key position

by | Jan 24

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Republican Party in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on Saturday appointed a woman former lawmaker as new political secretary. The appointment the 39-year-old lawyer Tamar Kordzaia is seen as a move to promote gender equality in politics.

News

Tbilisi joins global Women’s March against Trump

by | Jan 22

TBILISI, DFWatch--Like many other cities around the world, also Tbilisi held a women’s march on Saturday, following the inauguration of Donald Trump as new US President. The march was aimed at raising awareness about women's rights and other civil rights issues and started

News

Saakashvili-supporters regain control of the National Movement

by | Jan 21

TBILISI, DFWatch--The pro-Saakashvili wing of the opposition National Movement party took control of the party on Friday at a high-profile convention that concluded a months long internal feud. According to party officials, over 7,000 delegates took part in the event at Tbilisi Sports Hall.

News

First end-of-life care unit for children opens in Tbilisi

by | Jan 20

TBILISI, DFWatch--After years of fundraising and hard work, a new end-of-life care unit for children living with life limiting illnesses has finally opened in Tbilisi. The center is a hospice for minors who need a specific type of palliative care. At the opening ceremony on Tuesday,

News

Georgia’s ruling party bounces in first post-election poll

by | Jan 19

TBILISI, DFWatch--The ruling party bounces in a new opinion poll published on Wednesday by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) now dominates Georgian politics with nearly half of voters sympathetic to it. The poll was

Security

Lawyer’s group asks Georgian government to disclose Gazprom deal

by | Jan 18

TBILISI, DFWatch--A group of lawyers in the former Soviet republic Georgia calls on the government to disclose a controversial deal it recently struck with the Russian-owned energy giant Gazprom over switching monetized payments for transiting Russian gas to Armenia.

Economy

Gazprom deal threatens Georgia’s fundamental interests, president warns

by | Jan 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili views a controversial deal recently struck between the Georgian government and the Russian-owned energy giant Gazprom as less favorable than the previous agreement, and ‘harmful' to the political and economic

News

Saakashvili believes Georgian tycoon Ivanishvili masterminded UNM’s failure

by | Jan 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--Following the high-profile breakup of Georgia’s largest opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday sat down with Tbilisi based television channel Rustavi 2 and gave his first interview about

News

Poll shows stable support for EU and NATO among Georgians

by | Jan 17

TBILISI, DFWatch--Support among Georgians for joining NATO and the European Union has fallen slightly but remains high, according to a new opinion poll published on Monday by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The survey was carried out in

Minorities

In pictures: Sunday prayer in Batumi mosque

by | Jan 16

BATUMI, DFWatch--One Sunday in December, Muslims are cramming into the Orta Jame mosque in Batumi. Despite a three decades long effort to get permission to build a second mosque, they still have only one mosque to go to despite the city’s sizable Muslim population.

News

Saakashvili’s UNM splits in three factions in parliament

by | Jan 15

TBILISI, DFWatch--The party that ran the former Soviet republic Georgia for nearly a decade has split into three factions in parliament after a long internal feud over the role of its former leader Mikheil Saakashvili. For a few days, there was doubt over whether what

News

Gazprom to switch to monetary transit fee for using Georgia pipeline

by | Jan 14

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has agreed to less favourable conditions for allowing its territory to be used by Russian energy giant Gazprom to transit natural gas to Armenia. The resulting deal is is expected to be met with harsh criticism from the opposition and local energy experts.

Europe

EU parliament committee approves visa-free access for Georgians

by | Jan 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--3.7 million Georgian nationals came one step closer to getting visa-free access to EU’s vast borderless Schengen area on Tuesday, as members of the LIBE committee in the EU parliament added their seal of approval to the plan. The Committee on Civil Liberties,

Crime

Republican Party presents legislation to combat violence against women

by | Jan 13

TBILISI, DFWatch--In the former Soviet republic Georgia, the Republican Party has proposed legislation that will make femicide a separate crime - a gender-based hate crime which is causing alarm in the country. The Republicans, a party formed by Soviet dissenters in the 1970s,

News

Party which reformed Georgia during a decade breaks apart

by | Jan 12

TBILISI, DFWatch--Three months long infighting in Georgia’s main opposition party concluded with dozens of members announcing their departure and formation of a new opposition party on Thursday. 38 heads of municipal and regional organizations

News

Police move on libertarians for NYE cannabis planting stunt

by | Jan 12

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police in the former Soviet republic Georgia entered the office of a libertarian party on Wednesday, seizing 84 cannabis plants that were planted eleven days earlier in a publicity stunt to promote the decriminalization of drugs. The three officers spent

News

Breakaway South Ossetia prepares for presidential elections in spring

by | Jan 11

TBILISI, DFWatch--Campaigning will soon begin for the election to become new de facto president of Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia. The secessionist parliament of the region must schedule the date of the election and start the campaign before January 29.

News

Breakup of Saakashvili’s UNM party seems inevitable

by | Jan 11

TBILISI, DFWatch--Leading figures in Georgia's main opposition party the United National Movement (UNM) seemed to acknowledge that a split is inevitable in comments made on Tuesday. "This party is no longer united. When people don’t say hello

News

Son of former opposition leader charged with assaulting Rustavi 2 director

by | Jan 10

TBILISI, DFWatch--The son of a former opposition politician in Georgia was Monday officially charged with having assaulted the director of the largest opposition TV channel. The suspect Rati Gachechiladze (29) pleaded guilty and was released on 5,000 laris (USD 1,800) bail.

News

Rustavi 2 head assaulted at father’s funeral meal by son of Maestro director

by | Jan 8

TBILISI, DFWatch--The director of Georgia’s largest opposition-leaning TV channel was physically assaulted at a restaurant in Tbilisi Saturday evening. The attack took place as Rustavi 2 director Nika Gvaramia was preparing to leave a restaurant after the funeral of his father.

Media

Ad showing murder of Santa goes viral in Georgia

by | Jan 7

TBILISI, DFWatch--A New Year’s commercial in Georgia has caused controversy for showing Santa Claus being murdered in front of a child. Now, the Public Defender calls on the advertisement company to stop airing the ad. The video (16+) ‘Santa

Media

Georgia’s Public Broadcaster selects new head who has links to Ivanishvili

by | Jan 7

TBILISI, DFWatch--The supervisory board of Georgia’s Public Broadcaster (GPB) on Thursday selected as new director a candidate with close ties to the ruling party and personal links to billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. The decision to appoint Vasil Maglaperidze

News

Former Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava released from prison

by | Jan 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--The former mayor of Tbilisi was released from prison Friday evening. Tbilisi Court of Appeal partially reduced his sentence to 1 year, 3 months and 22 days. As the detention is counted from September 18, 2015, his term expired on January 6.

News

Ivanishvili-linked GDS TV to shut down political programs

by | Jan 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--A pro-government TV channel in Georgia is suspending its political programs in the wake of a merger of the country’s three major mainstream TV companies, a local online news website reports. GDS is closing down its ‘2030’ program,

Minorities, News

Culture house in Pankisi may close following ‘intentional’ fire

by | Jan 6

TBILISI, DFWatch--A culture house in the Pankisi Gorge in the northern part of Kakheti may close after a fire that staff say was deliberately started. The fire on Tuesday didn’t cause much damage, but a spokesperson for the organization which runs the center

Economy

Influx of visitors to Georgia jumped 8 % in 2016

by | Jan 5

TBILISI, DFWatch--Almost 6.3 million people visited Georgia from abroad in 2016. This is 7.9 percent more than last year, the head of Georgian National Tourism Administration announced on Tuesday. Out of the total number, over 2.7 million stayed in the country for 24 hours or longer

Minorities

Fire at Pankisi culture center was ‘intentionally set’

by | Jan 4

TBILISI, DFWatch--A fire that broke out at a culture house in the Pankisi Gorge was intentionally started, a spokesperson for the center told a local radio station. The building is located in Duisi, the largest village of Pankisi, a mountainous area of Georgia inhabited predominantly

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