Georgian judges call US sanctions on them “unfair”, “politically grounded”

  • Levan Murusizde and Valerian Tsertsvadze have responded to their sanctioning by the US., 6 Apr 2023 - 13:01, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian judges Levan Murusidze and Valerian Tsertsvadze on Thursday called the decision of the United States Department of State to impose travel restrictions on them for alleged corruption “unfair” and “politically grounded”.

Responding to the sanctions in his social media post, Tsertsvadze claimed he had left the judiciary six years ago and taken no public posts since then, claiming the DoS decision could be aimed at “gaining influence” in the Georgian court and “discrediting” it.

He also claimed absence of “facts or evidence” that would confirm the allegations, and added they had been made “without any justification and in violation of the presumption of innocence”, and were based on “political grounds”. 

Murusidze also said he had “done nothing” to become a subject of the sanctions, adding while the outcome was negative for him personally, “I will cope with it somehow”. 

He claimed by sanctioning the judges, the State Department had “sent a message” to their colleagues in the country that if they refused to “make decisions that are acceptable” to the US Embassy in Tbilisi they would be “treated the same way”.

The judge claimed the corruption allegations had been used as a “mask” to “disguise the attempts of capturing” the domestic judiciary by the supposed American influence. 

Murusidze accused the Embassy of having used domestic non-governmental organisations, “several” opposition parties and international organisations to achieve the goal through “fake allegations” on a “clan of judges” being involved in the running of the Georgian court system. 

US Embassy representatives would come to me for years to offer desirable candidates in the High Council of Justice, or decisions by the body. I can back my words with evidence”, Murusidze said. 

He also brought up the example of judge Lasha Chkhikvadze, who last year accused the Embassy of exerting pressure on him for the ruling that found Nika Gvaramia, the founder of the opposition-minded Mtavari Arkhi channel, guilty in a case over financial damage caused to Rustavi 2 channel

The State Department imposed visa restrictions on four judges - Murusidze, Tsertsvadze, Mikheil Chinchaladze and Irakli Shengelia - for their alleged “involvement in significant corruption”.

The release for the ruling said the judges had “abused their positions as court chairmen and members of Georgia’s High Council of Justice, undermining the rule of law and the public’s faith in Georgia’s judicial system”.