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Opposition Politician Jailed for 7 Years
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 23 May.'07 / 12:54

Batiashvili says charges politically-motivated.
Tbilisi City Court found Irakli Batiashvili guilty of involvement in last summer's attempted coup. The court found that he had provided “intellectual assistance,” essentially providing advice, to a rebel warlord, Emzar Kvitsiani, and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment.

Batiashvili, a member of the opposition party, Forward Georgia, served as Georgia’s security chief in the early 1990s. He was arrested on July 29 2006 – a few days after government forces cracked down on Kvitsiani’s militias in upper Kodori Gorge in breakaway Abkhazia.

Batiashvili denied the charges and claimed they were politically motivated – a view widely shared by other opposition parties and some human rights groups.

“This is alarming; we have a prisoner of conscience,” an independent MP, Koka Guntsadze, said.

“There was no legal reason to jail him; the only reason was political; he is a political prisoner,” Pikria Chikhradze, MP, of the opposition New Rights Party, said.

Davit Berdzenishvili, MP, of the opposition Republican Party, described the court’s ruling as “shameful, immoral and dishonest.”

Speaking at the court hearing on May 22, Batiashvili described the procedings as a show trial and announced he would go on hunger strike.

Batiashvili’s defense attorneys said they would appeal to a higher court and, failing that, then send the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights “if we fail to find the truth in Georgia.”

The evidence against Batiashvili included public statements he made on television, as well as a taped phone conversation with Kvitsiani, wherein Batiashvili tells the rebel warlord to “stand firm” and to call on the government troops “not to use force and not to shed blood.”

Batiashvili's attorneys claimed that the evidence was insufficient to support the charges. In any case, they said, it had been fabricated, with the taped phone conversation in particular being selectively edited by prosecutors.

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