Court orders moral compensation for photographers convicted for espionage under UNM Gov’t

  • The photographers were arrested in July 2011 after they had taken and distributed photographs of the violent dispersal of the May 26, 2011 rally in Tbilisi by the UNM authorities.  Photo: 1TV, 28 Apr 2023 - 15:35, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Tbilisi City Court on Thursday ordered the Prosecutor General’s Office to pay moral damages to four photographers arrested and convicted under the previous United National Movement in 2011 on charges of espionage, after their photographs of a violent dispersal of an opposition rally in Tbilisi earlier in the same year ended up in domestic and international press.

In comments on the ruling, they highlighted the Prosecutor General’s Office had launched a new investigation into the case in 2016, under the Georgian Dream Government, with the country’s Court of Appeals acquitting the reporters in 2018. 

The photographers also said they had requested compensation for moral damages for the latest ruling to “create a precedent”, and stressed the significance of the first court decision of the kind.

Moral damages had not been compensated [in a case like this before], especially when it came to espionage charges. We are happy with the court’s decision - the amount of compensation does not matter. We always believed the truth would prevail”, Natia Gedenidze, one of the photographers in the case, said at a press briefing on the ruling.

The group also called it “unfortunate” that the current authorities had to pay compensations for wrongdoings by their predecessors.

Zurab Kurtsikidze, Giorgi Abdaladze, Irakli Gedenidze and Natia Gedenidze were arrested on July 7, 2011 and subsequently charged with espionage for Russia, shortly after their photographs showing the dispersal of the peaceful anti-Government rally on May 26 went viral. 

The photographers were released later that month in a plea bargain after making false confessions, amid rallies held by domestic media in protest of their arrests. 

Two law enforcement officials were arrested and sentenced in 2017 after being charged with abuse of power in forcing the false confessions from the reporters.