Supreme Court: Rustavi 2 belongs to ex-shareholder Kibar Khalvashi

Based on the unanimous verdict of the nine-member high chamber of the Supreme Court Kibar Khalvashi is the owner of Tv broadcasting company Rustavi 2. Photo: Rustavi 2/Facebook, 02 Mar 2017 - 21:18, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s Supreme Court has delivered a verdict in the ownership case of one of Georgia’s largest TV channels, Rustavi 2.

The verdict came out today in favor of former Rustavi 2 shareholder Kibar Khalvashi.

Based on the unanimous verdict of the nine-member high chamber of the Supreme Court, 60 percent of the TV company’s shares will go directly to Khalvashi while the remaining 40 percent to Panorama LTD, which is a company owned by him.

Up until the recent verdict, the broadcasting company was managed by Nika Gvaramia, who previously held multiple positions in the Cabinet of Ministers during Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency.

Protesters supporting Rustavi 2’s current management under Director General Gvaramia had gathered in front of the court waiting for the verdict since the afternoon. Many of them are now saying the decision is a blow to "freedom of speech”.

TV channel staff, Rustavi 2 supporters and opposition politicians gathered in front of the parliament building this February. Photo: Rustavi 2/Facebook

Established in 1994, the broadcasting company changed ownership numerous times between 2004 and 2012.

Khalvashi filed a lawsuit in 2015 and, as an interim measure, also requested that the court freeze the broadcaster’s assets until the final verdict be released so as to prevent the current owners from selling their shares.

His lawyers then said their client had purchased the broadcasting company for $7 million USD in 2004 but was forced under strong pressure of the Saakashvili-led government and ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili to concede the property to a new owner in December 2006.