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 the country’s largest opposition TV station.
The proof released by the former Soviet republic’s chief prosecutor consisted of letters delivered to the judges’s home addresses as well as mobile text messages allegedly originating in Ukraine.
They are signed by a ‘D. Sakvarelidze’, who although not stated explicitly by the prosecutor’s office is an obvious reference to Davit Sakvarelidze, Georgia’s former deputy chief prosecutor (2008-2010) who moved to Ukraine after the National Movement party lost power in 2012 and has been working there as deputy chief prosecutor of that country, alongside the Georgian ex-president Saakashvili and his team.
Sakvarelidze recently left his job, but still lives in Ukraine without holding any official position.
In the letter released by POG, ‘D. Sakvarelidze’ instructs one of the Supreme Court judges and promises career promotion after the National Movement’s (UNM) return to power. UNM was in power in Georgia from 2004 to 2012 under its leader, former President Mikheil Saakashvili, but many of the party’s top officials, Sakvarelidze included, fled the country shortly after losing the election in 2012.
“Their [Georgian Dream’s] reign will be end soon,” the letter says. “Keep on that way. Misha appreciates your commitment. Now it’s time to make tension from inside. Try to make scandal from any tiny details. Go and say everything in public how you are pressured by authorities, and don’t worry, Nika will manage other stuff, he will make a black PR campaign. You will become heroes and a promotion in your career is guaranteed for you when we come back,” one of the letters reads.
However, the Prosecutor’s Office didn’t make clear the full name of the person who has tried to pressure them in a lawsuit over who shall control the television Rustavi 2, the major opposition media outlet in Georgia and a constant irritant for the ruling party.
In addition, the Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that the SMSs judges received on their mobile phones were from Ukrainian mobile operators.
“It is important to note that both judges have rejected any attempt of interference or/ and pressure except of this case,” POG’s statement reads.
The top prosecutor’s office said that an investigation is underway and the final results will be presented soon.
Davit Sakvarelidze denies the allegations, saying that POG has been carrying out orders from SUSI (State Security Agency) and personally from Bidzina Ivanishvili (former PM).
“(First) I laughed, but now it’s no longer funny for me, because my country in in the hands of these people […] Everyone is blindly complying with the assignments from the State Security Agency and Ivanishvili […] Who might trust this nonsense?” Davit Sakvarelidze told Radio Pirveli.
Judges Besarion Arveladze and Paata Katamadze, who told the prosecutor general in a letter that they were being pressured, walked out of a meeting of the High Council of Justice on Friday without making comments to the media.
Arveladze and Katamadze are presiding in a private lawsuit over the ownership of Rustavi 2, a TV channel sympathetic to the former National Movement party and a constant thorn in the side of the current government.
Rustavi 2’s director claims the judges were pressured by the domestic intelligence service State Security Agency to silence the government’s most vocal critical voice, while the prosecutor general claims that it appears that the threats came from a former government official linked with the National Movement.
The case caused uproar in a country whose justice system Europe and the United States have spent millions on reforming.