The Tbilisi City Court ruling to freeze Imedi TV’s assets was “unjustified” and “illegal,” the Georgian Public Defender’s Office said in a statement on December 12.
In a ruling dated November 7, but only made public six days later, Tbilisi City Court froze Imedi TV’s assets, citing the television station’s alleged use as “a major tool” for organizing demonstrations. The demonstrations, the court maintained, created “an imminent and real threat of a forceful overthrow of the government.” The court subsequently reversed its ruling and allowed Imedi back on air on December 6.
The Public Defender’s Office, having studied the court’s initial ruling, said it found it necessary to recommend that the Justice Council launch disciplinary proceedings against Tbilisi City Court judge Giorgi Shavliashvili.
The court’s November 7 ruling was mainly based on the fact that Imedi TV had broadcast a written statement by Badri Patarkatsishvili, the station’s co-owner and, according to government officials, a suspected coup plotter. Patarkatsishvili told evening viewers on November 7 - a few hours after riot police had dispersed anti-government demonstrators – that he would spare no resources to liberate Georgia from, what he called, “the Saakashvili fascist regime.”
“[Reading out this statement] created an imminent and real threat of a further escalation in tension and the overthrow of the government and was an incitement to mass unrest,” Tbilisi City Court said at the time.
The Public Defender’s Office, however, said that Patarkatsishvili’s statement “did not contain an appeal to violence.”
“Moreover, it did not contain any appeal at all. The statement was simply extremely tough-worded and contained very critical remarks,” the Public Defender’s Office said.
The Public Defender’s Office has also alleged that even though the court’s ruling is dated November 7, it was in fact issued only after police had raided Imedi TV studios. The alleged subterfuge, the Public Defender’s Office said, was employed to provide ex post facto legal cover for the police raid and the closure of the station.
Patarkatsishvili’s statement was read out on Imedi TV, according to the Public Defender’s Office, at 6:28 pm local time on November 7. Police raided the station within two hours. Time-wise, it would have been impossible to carry out all the necessary legal proceedings, according to the Public Defender’s Office. Among other things, prosecutors would have needed to draft a submission for the court, and the court itself would have had to consider it.