French court denies extradition of ex-Defence Minister Kezerashvili

Kezerashvili following the French Court decision in Aix-en-Provence on February 27, 2014. Photo by K.Kardava, 27 Feb 2014 - 16:46, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s ex-Defence Minister David Kezerashvili will not be extradited to Georgia.

This decision was made this afternoon by a French court despite Kezerashvili being wanted in Georgia and facing multiple criminal charges including corruption.

Following the court decision, Kezerashvili made his very first comments to Georgian media representatives and said he was satisfied with the court‘s decision.

"I expected this kind of verdict. I am glad the court made this decision because both cases against me were false (artificial),” he said.  

Kezerashvili’s lawyer Shota Mindeli confirmed Kezerashvili had been released from prison and would not be forced to wear an electronic bracelet which had earlier monitored his movements.

He said the court verdict stated because Kezerashvili had been the Defence Minister of Georgia, "there was a small chance the current Government could have a political influence on him". 

The original copy of the verdict has not been released yet.

Meanwhile Kezerashvili did not elaborate on his future plans in front of journalists and said he would "decide later".

Shortly announcing the French court’s decision, Georgian Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani commented: "I regret very much that the French judge was in unequal conditions wherein there were expensive lawyers hired by Kezerashvili on the one hand and a French prosecutor, not Georgian one, on the other hand, who as it seems failed to compete properly with expensive lawyers.”

On February 3, Kezerashvili was released on bail by an Aix-en-Provence court in France.

Georgia’s former Minister of Defence was named on the Interpol wanted list before he was arrested and detained in France on October 10, 2013, in accordance with Georgia’s request.

Kezerashvili is accused of bribe-taking, violating Georgia’s transport rules, in relation to large amounts of movable items, and illegal money laundering committed by a group that was accompanied by acquiring a large amount of income. He also faces charges of alienating TV Imedi in 2008.

He has also been accused of protecting a scheme that illegally smuggled alcohol.

Kezerashvili, 35, was chief of financial police from 2004 till late 2006 and then served as defence minister till December 2008.