TBILISI, DFWatch–‘Political prosecution’ was used as the justification for the London court’s refusal to extradite former UNM official who served as Minister of Defense of Georgia during 2008 Russo-Georgian War and was charged with numerous crimes after his party lost power in the wake of 2012 elections.
London court refused to extradite former minister of defense in the government of United National Movement, Davit Kezerashvili.
According to Mr Kezerashvili’s defence lawyer Shota Mindeli, the court’s decision was motivated by an ‘ongoing political persecution’ of former officials by the current government, Interpressnews reported.
‘I am not sure that the request for Mr Kezerashvili’s extradition is for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing him on account of his political opinions. I am aware that the requests may have been made for entirely proper purposes. The evidence may be there to sustain one or more convictions. However, that is not the test. On balance I consider it more likely than not that the desire to prosecute former UNM politicians is a purpose behind these requests. It may not be the only purpose, but without that factor I do not believe, on balance, that these requests would have been made and pursued in the way they have been’, judge Howard Riddle wrote in his decision.
‘The Prosecutor’s Office hasn’t given up. After many months, our government’s effective actions led to the bringing of [former Georgian intelligence official] “Mastera” to Georgia. Consequently, we will bring to Georgia every person who has fled with charges against them — if not today, then tomorrow. We won’t stop working on that’, minister of justice Tea Tsulukiani commented the British court’s decision.
Georgia’s Prosecutor General’s Office demanded extradition of Mr Kezerashvili, who is charged with a number of crimes:
- Exceeding official authority, in the case concerning breaking up the anti-government rally and breaking into Imedi TV on 7 November 2007(together with former mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava);
- Appropriation of a company involved in processing of oil products and dry goods in Poti Port;
- Embezzlement of over 5 million euros from the Ministry of Defence through an offshore company registered in the Virgin Islands;
Mr Kezerashvili was already acquitted from the following charges by Tbilisi City Court:
- Assisting a criminal gang with manufacturing fake cognac using additives, earning more than 12 million dollars on the business, and causing the state a loss of 50 million dollars;
- Receiving over 12.3 million dollars in bribe for providing ‘protection’ to ethyl spirit smuggling scheme from Ukraine and violating customs procedures between 2007 and 2012;
- Misappropriation of state funds and money laundering (together with former mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava);
Mr Kezerashvili was one of founding members of the United National Movement and close ally of Mikheil Saakashvili, former president. He worked as chair of the financial police at the Ministry of Finance from 2004 to 2006. In November 2006, he was appointed as Minister of Defense. He served his post during the August 2008 war and was dismissed in December 2008, following which went into business, including advertising, media, and energy sectors. He holds a double Georgian and Israeli citizenship.