Activities of the Prosecution Service will never be influenced by the any politician statement. First judgment against the ex-president was rendered on 5th of January. Mikheil Saakashvili was found guilty by the court and 3 years of imprisonment was imposed on him as a penalty. The first judgment was rendered on Sandro Girgvliani case, where Mikheil Saakashvili was charged with the abuse of official authority by the Prosecution Service. According to the investigation, Mikheil Saakashvili gave an unlawful promise to then Head of the Constitutional Security Department Data Akhalaia to pardon persons convicted for the murder of Sandro Girgvliani, and later actually pardoned Geronti Alania, Mikheil Bibiluridze, Avtandil Aphtsiauri and Aleksandre Ghachava, by ignoring the pardon commission and creating legal grounds for the conditional release of these persons. It sparked harsh criticism against Prosecution Service both by former and current Presidents to have pardon aspect involved in the case.
INTERPRESSNEWS conducted an interview with Giorgi Gogadze, Deputy Chief Prosecutor, regarding the response of the Prosecution Service to the accusations of politicians and the arguments grounding their position:
- The reasoning of the Judgment rendered against Mikheil Saakashvili, indicating which evidences were relied upon by the judge, has not been delivered to the parties yet. However, the defense counsel and supporters of the ex-president argue that no evidence existed to incriminate Saakashvili. How strong were the evidence of the Prosecution Service and how reliable were the main witnesses interrogated during the court hearings? I mean Nino Burjanadze and Irakli Okruashvili. Defense argues that both of these witness statements are contradicting the statement of Data Akhalaia.
- First of all, I would like to congratulate New 2018 Year and Christmas to the whole Georgia; to wish a territorial integrity to our country and success and health to our people.
Mikheil Saakashvili was found guilty in the charged offences and 3 years of imprisonment was imposed for the abuse of his official authority. The court fully relied upon the evidences presented by the prosecutor and considered the fact of abuse of official authority by Saakashvili authentic and confirmed. The court judgment of conviction is a fact and it illustrates that the evidence submitted by the prosecutor were well-established, substantiated and credible. More precisely, prosecution was launched against him on the charges of abuse of official authority, expressed in prior unlawful promise of pardoning of certain inpiduals and subsequently abiding by this promise. His promise made it possible to convince the persons convicted on Girgvliani case not to name Data Akhalaia as an organizer of the crime and to eliminate any connection between the feast in Café Chardin and the kidnapping of Girgvliani.
All the then state authorities acted in concert with the involvement and orchestration of the then President, in order to prevent conduction of impartial investigation, disclosure of the actual circumstances of the committed crime and exposure of high level officials involved therein (besides Davit Akhalaia, Vasil Sanodze, Oleg Melnikov, Guram Donadze, Tako Salakaia (wife of Ivane Merabishvili) and other persons were also presented on the feast). Even before arresting the aforesaid persons the following promises were made to them:
Arrested persons would have received large value of funds in return to their silence. The promise was fulfilled! Each of them was handed USD 100,000.
Their families would have been secured financially and with other advantages. This promise was also exercised! Families of the convicts were not only financially secured but they also used to enjoy the services of the drivers paid from the state budget; their cars were supplied with the fuel coupons of the Constitutional Security Department and other expenses were also born.
Convicted persons would have been provided with full comfort, unlimited telephone connection and visitation rights, special meals and services. The promise was executed. A part of the №10 Penitentiary Establishment space was separated, arranged, renovated and equipped with various technical devices for them. Even the Head of the Establishment was appointed according to their preferences and with their prior consent. They enjoyed all types of privileges, including the escort services. A cook and a cleaner were also assigned to them.
Most importantly – in line with the promise of the President, they were expected to leave the Penitentiary Establishment within 1, 5 - 2 years by virtue of the presidential pardon. The promise was fulfilled – with slight changes in the method and duration, caused by the negative reaction of the society.
The facts mentioned by me before were incontrovertibly confirmed by the statements of the then Head of the Parliament - Nino Burjanadze, the then Minister of Defense - Irakli Okruashvili, the then Prime Minister - Zurab Noghaideli, as well as Oleg Melnikov, the Head of the Security of the Presidential Residency, persons convicted on Girgvliani case– Bibiluridze, Aphtsiauri and other witnesses interrogated on the case. Various documentary evidences were additionally submitted and examined, including the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), report of the Ombudsman, etc. Moreover, a number of video recordings and ex-president interviews were evaluated. As for the credibility of the witnesses and legal significance of their statements, it has to be noted that these persons had frequent contact and everyday communication with the President due to their status and, therefore, they were informed about his position and decision; it would be surprising if they did not have such information. As for the so-called argument of the defense, as if Data Akhalaia’s statement had annulled something – let me remind you that Data Akhalaia is the very person ordering the crime against Girgvliani. Nowadays he is the defendant. The court hearings are on-going on charges against him; he is evading justice and does not plea himself guilty. Therefore, it is impossible to consider his statements as credible. Obviously he denies what happened because he owes the President, as far as he is one of the high ranking officials that the President intended to save and therefore he made an unjustifiable decision and committed a crime. It has to be further noted that this is not the first convicting judgment delivered in the frames of the renewed investigation on Girgvliani case. The Prosecution Service has gradually confirmed every fact depicted in the decision of the ECHR. For instance, the judgment of guilt has already confirmed that the then Minister of Interior Ivane Merabishvili has committed a crime – he was involved in falsifying the investigation of Girgvliani case and abused his official authority. The judgment of guilt also confirms that Bachana Akhalaia, the then Head of the Penitentiary Department committed a crime – as promised, he illegally created comfortable conditions for the persons convicted on Girgvliani case in the establishment subordinated to him. Additionally, judgments of guilt are rendered against 5 exposed high ranking officials.
Furthermore, I cannot ignore the decision of the ECHR regarding this case while talking about the sufficiency of the evidence. In the course of examining case, the Georgian side submitted evidences obtained through falsified investigation before the ECHR. However, even in the frames of these evidence the ECHR concluded that the investigation was not impartial and every state authority, including the President, acted in concert and did their best to impede the administration of justice. Given the aforesaid, the Georgian court nowadays is in a completely different situation. The court was supplied with new and authentic evidence obtained within the framework of objective, renewed investigation on the case. Consequently, the Georgian court reaffirmed the systemic nature of the crime, as established by the ECHR, on every case.
- The convicted person made political statements in relation to the judgment. This case was titled as a “pardon case”, since the Prosecution Service was prosecuting the ex-president for issuing an act of pardon. Saakashvili says that he pardoned 133 ex-military officers with by virtue of the mentioned act and at the same time Saakashvili states that prosecuting the president for exercising his constitutional authority is unprecedented. Besides the pardon count, was there any other episode revealed during the investigation, proving Saakashvili’s culpability?
- Let me one again clarify for what has Saakashvili been convicted. Article 332 – abuse of official authority implies that a person has a certain authority; however, he exercised this authority for malicious, personal purposes, political beliefs and so on. Speculations over the idea that Saakashvili was indicted and later convicted for exercising his constitutional right point to the lack of legal knowledge and competency. Although, if we analyze such statements, we will see that the actual intention of certain interested political groups is to mislead society and discredit justice. You cannot abuse an authority if you do not have one. Mikheil Saakashvili was convicted for the abuse of the authority delegated upon him. If we agree with the position that an official cannot abuse his constitutional right, i.e. commit a crime prescribed under Article 332 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, then to the same token, this official can take bribe by using the same right and it will not be considered as a crime punishable under Article 338 (bribe-taking) of the Criminal Code of Georgia. Therefore, this argument demonstrates lack of legal knowledge and it obviously will not be taken into account by the Prosecution Service of Georgia. Every public servant, despite their status or position, is equal before the law. They act within the limits of the certain authority delegated upon them and it’s important to exercise this authority in good faith. It should be additionally outlined that high level position is deemed as aggravating circumstance by law while committing official misconduct. Therefore, high ranking political official, such as a president, will be punished more strictly compared to regular public servant for the same offence. This way the legislator emphasized the higher responsibility of political officials while exercising rights conferred by law upon them.
- The ex-president says that this case, together with other criminal cases, is politically motivated. This statement is to some extent substantiated by the circumstance that after the presidential pardon persons convicted for the murder of Sandro Girgvliani have not left the prison and they were released by the court. Should there be the issue of the criminal responsibility of judges also in question? Were the judges, who contributed to the release of these persons with their decision, interviewed on the case?
The Prosecution Service does not have any political motivation towards any case. Such speculation from the convicted person is understandable. The ex-president was convicted on the bases of authentic evidence and I think that the court also rendered a fair judgment. I have discussed the evidence of the case in details above. As for the second part of the question – the decision about pardoning the convicted persons was unilaterally made by Mikheil Saakashvili. If it was not necessary, then the court would reduce their punishment or release them. It is important to correctly perceive every detail of the case. By virtue of the pardon from ex-president their punishment was reduced by half, which allowed them to apply the mechanism of conditional release towards the aforesaid persons. I would also like to mention that the latter mechanism was exercised through falsification of documents and by entering false information therein, which was also a part of the criminal scheme. As for the court decision made at that time, it has been now proved by the investigation and rendered judgments that a falsified investigation has been conducted on the case in compliance with the version agreed in advance, and the evidence submitted before the court also corroborate this version.
Due to the well-known factors, defenders, as well as other witnesses provided false statements before the court, which resulted in the type of decision that was rendered. Besides, the court cannot reevaluate the then submitted evidence by conducting a renewed investigation.
- Besides ex-president, the current president of Georgia also criticized Prosecution Service for prosecuting Mikheil Saakashvili on the exercise of his constitutional right. What will be your response to the allegations of Giorgi Margvelashvili? Is it possible that this judgment will serve as a precedent for prosecuting president for any decisions taken on pardon?
- None of the official person will ever be entitled to abuse his official power – this will never be legalized in Georgia. Generally, the abuse of official power (Article 332 of the Criminal Code of Georgia), as well as the bribe-taking (Article 338 of the Criminal Code of Georgia) and other similar articles (which we cannot fully enlist here) are considered as corruptive offences. The fight against corruption is one of the main priorities of the Prosecution Service and repressive criminal policy is applied in this direction. The principle of piding state powers is employed in Georgia and every pision is delegated with certain constitutional authorities. Obviously, it is not welcomed when the representative of one pision of state power makes ungrounded assessments regarding the criminal case, without any knowledge of investigation and court hearings conducted thereon. Such action, especially while having no relevant functions, creates the impression of intervening into the competences of the Prosecution Service and court - independent institutions belonging to the other pision of state power. According to the Georgian legislation, the Prosecution Service is the only authority entitled to the criminal prosecution and the only court can revise its decisions. Consequently, no other authority can undertake these functions. Generally, nobody has right to interfere into the activities of the Prosecution Service, since it is an apolitical, completely independent authority and every similar statement points to the effort of having influence on its activity, which is in contradiction to the principle of independent Prosecution. Furthermore, it should be explicitly mentioned that the administration of justice is an authority of judicial institutions, guaranteed under the Article 82 of the Constitution of Georgia. Only court is entitled to examine and decide upon the culpability or innocence of the person. Prosecution Service, on its part, is always acting within its own competence strictly established by the Georgian legislation and I can assure you that none of the statement or action of politicians can influence the activity of Prosecution Service or of the single prosecutor.
- The first judgment against Mikheil Saakashvili is already delivered. What will be the next steps of Prosecution Service? Are you going to refer again or submit this judgment to the Ukrainian side, in order to resume the extradition issue of the ex-president?
- The Prosecution Service of Georgia will exploit every possibility to bring the persons, who have committed crime in Georgia, before the justice institutions of Georgia. We have established relations with the competent authorities of Ukraine and the motions are already filed on the extradition of Mikheil Saakashvili to Georgia. Now the Ukrainian authorities should decide to extradite him or not. We hope that every defendant or convicted person will be brought to justice in Georgia.
Lastly, I would like to wish a happy New Year and Merry Christmas to the whole Georgia again. May the 2018 be the year of happiness and success.