Lawyers of Imprisoned ex-president Saakashvili appeal for victim status from Prosecutor’s Office

  • Tbilisi City Court annulled the State Inspector’s Service decision and related fines against the two institutions, concluding the footage had been justifiably published due to “significant public interest” in the developments around imprisonment and hunger strike of Saakashvili, ruling no violation of the law on personal data protection. Photo: Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge.

Agenda.ge, 18 Jan 2022 - 17:26, Tbilisi,Georgia

The legal team of the imprisoned former president Mikheil Saakashvili has appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to identify him as a victim following a Tbilisi City Court decision to overturn a State Inspector Service ruling against the Special Penitentiary Service for disclosing the politician’s personal data.

Saakashvili's lawyer Nika Gvaramia said his team demanded recognition of his client as a victim of inhumane and degrading treatment. If accepted, the status would give the legal counsel full access to the material of the case of video footage of the former president in prison facilities, released by the Justice Ministry and the Penitentiary Service of Georgia in November.

We have an exchange of materials with the State Inspector's Service, but there are materials that we do not have access to [currently],” Gvaramia said, calling on the State Inspector’s Service and Public Defender’s Office to publish the complete video material with consent from Saakashvili.

The State Inspector’s Service determined on December 3 the justice ministry and the Penitentiary Service of Georgia had violated the law on personal data by releasing videos of Saakashvili receiving food and supplements while on prison hunger strike, as well as separate footage of his controversial transfer from Rustavi prison to the Gldani Prison hospital on November 8. 

However, earlier this month Tbilisi City Court annulled the State Inspector’s Service decision and related fines against the two institutions, concluding the footage had been justifiably published due to “significant public interest” in the developments around imprisonment and hunger strike of Saakashvili, ruling no violation of the law on personal data protection.

Saakashvili, who underwent a course of treatment in central Georgia’s Gori Military Hospital following a prolonged hunger strike starting the day of his arrest on October 1, was transferred back to Rustavi No. 12 prison on December 30.

The former president of Georgia, now a citizen of Ukraine, had been found guilty of abuse of power in two cases in absentia in 2018 and is currently serving his sentence of six years of imprisonment following his clandestine return to Georgia in late September.

He faces additional charges including illegal seizure of property, embezzlement, illegal rally dispersal, and illegal border crossing.

The Georgian parliament approved a bill replacing the State Inspector’s Service with the Special Investigation and Personal Data Protection services on December 30, against calls by some foreign diplomats, non-governmental organisations and the political opposition to pause the process.

Per the bill, the body will be replaced with two new agencies on March 1, 2022. The State Inspector’s Service has said it hopes the court’s decision will be submitted to their office before the deadline, in order to have an opportunity to appeal against it.

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