Suspects in Georgia-Azerbaijan ‘land forfeit’ case released on bail

  • Iveri Melashvili (L) repeated during today’s trial that he does not admit to the charges. Photo: IPN., 28 Jan 2021 - 17:15, Tbilisi,Georgia

Two detainees in the Georgia-Azerbaijan ‘land forfeit’ high-profile case Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilichova have been released on 20,000 GEL bail each earlier today. 

The Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office requested the bail, stating that there was no need for pretrial detention.

Melashvili and Ilichova will not be able to leave the country before the court delivers a verdict in the case. 

The Prosecutor's Office said that they have already completed investigation into the case and that there is ‘genuine evidence’ that Melashvili and Ilichova were involved in the border agreement with Azerbaijan under the United National Movement leadership which led to the forfeit of 3,500 hectares of lands against Georgia’s interests.

We have requested they be allowed out on bail because there is evidence that the detainees committed the crime and there is no need for now to leave them in pretrial detention. The suspects can wait for the verdict outside prison. Now the investigation will be focused on uncovering the individuals who demanded signing the border agreement which was against Georgia’s interests,” Prosecutor Mikheil Sadradze said. 

On January 21 the Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office stated that Melashvil ‘was forced’ by his superiors to sign the border agreement back in 2006 and released a video recorded in Melashvili’s working room. 

The case concerns the sections of Georgia’s 6th century David Gareji monastery complex. Photo: Nino Alavidze/ 

An official statement of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office says that Melashvili, the former head of the Department for Border Relations with Neighbouring Countries and Ilichova, former Chief Inspector of the Land Border Protection Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, hid the original map of 1938 from the border commission members (which was chaired by Melashvili) and instead used a 1970-80 map in the process of demarcating the border.

The suspects do not admit to the crime and say that the map was ‘worthless’ and was rejected in 2006-2007.  

The opposition says that Melashvili and Ilichova are ‘political prisoners.’ 

One of the leaders of the European Georgia opposition party Sergi Kapanadze said that the Georgian Dream government ‘is likely to have plans to detain some former officials.’ 

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union back in 1991, out of its four neighboring states Georgia has agreed upon its borders only with Turkey.

Only two-thirds of the state border has been agreed upon with Azerbaijan so far, which on several occasions triggered tension in David Gareji back in 2019.