Georgia’s opposition politician jailed for 7 years
( Civil ) - City Court in Tbilisi found Irakli Batiashvili guilty of having links to plotting a coup through providing "an intellectual assistance" to a rebel warlord Emzar Kvitsiani last summer and sentenced him to seven-year imprisonment.
Batiashvili, a member of the opposition party Forward Georgia who served as Georgia's security chief in early 90s, was arrested on July 29, 2006 - few days after the governmental forces cracked down on Kvitsiani's militias in upper Kodori Gorge of breakaway Abkhazia.
Batiashvili denies charges and claims that his arrest and the trial were politically-motivated - allegation widely shared by other opposition parties and some human right groups.
"This is alarming, we have prisoner of conscious," a non-partisan lawmaker Koka Guntsadze said.
"There was no legal reason to jail him; the only reason was political; he is political prisoner," MP Pikria Chikhradze of the opposition New Rights Party said.
MP Davit Berdzenishvili of opposition Republican Party described the court's ruling as "shame, immoral and dishonest."
Speaking at the court hearing on May 22, Batiashvili said that the trial was a stage-show and announced about intention to go on hunger strike.
Batiashvili's defense attorneys said they will appeal to higher court and then send the case to Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights "if we fail to find the truth in Georgia."
The evidence against Batiashvili included public statements he made on television, as well as a tapped phone conversation with Emzar Kvitsiani, wherein Batiashvili tells rebel warlord to "stand firm" and to call on the governmental troops "not to use arms and not to shed blood."
Attorneys of Batiashvili claimed that evidence were not enough to support charges. They also alleged that evidence were fabricated and taped phone conversation was edited by prosecutors.
One of the controversial episodes during the trial involved a statement of presiding judge Maia Tetrauli who said that she had only read a transcript of a taped phone conversation between Batiashvili and Kvitsiani provided by the prosecutors, rather than listening to the actual taped conversation.