Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI), Transparency International – Georgia (TI) and Media Development Foundation (MDF) express their grave concern over allegations voiced by Batumi-based independent TV station, Channel25 founder and director Giorgi Surmanidze and owner Jemal Verdzadze. Messeurs Surmanidze and Verdzadze claimed unlawful pressure exerted upon them by senior officials of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office in order to provide untrue statements and testimonies that would be used to fabricate cases against various high level officials of the former Government. The media leaders declared these actions as pressure on independent media by the Government.
According to Surmanidze and Verdzadze they were summoned to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office December 17 and held at its premises from evening until 5 am of the next morning. No official documents were either presented or filled. In this period, Surmanidze and Verdzadze were subject to pressure by 10 senior officials and investigators. Specifically, they were threatened to be "imprisoned for life” unless they would agree to provide testimonies against particular individuals that would be used to fabricate criminal cases and charge them for organization and conceling various crimes. As Surmanidze and Verdzadze rejected offers and resisted pressure official orders were issued banning them to travel abroad even though the Chief Prosecutor’s Office was aware of Mr Surmanidze’s travel plans for health reasons. On December 23 property and bank accounts of both Surmanidze and Verdzadze were foreclosed as well.
We, the undersigned organizations strongly urge the authorities to immediately launch an investigation. Should this grave allegation be confirmed by such investigation, all perpetrators should be prosecuted in line with the Georgian legislation. It is of particular importance to ensure high degree of transparency of the investigation.
In addition, the Office of the Chief Prosecutor should immediately clarify the status of these two individuals held in the Prosecutor’s Office until 5 am on December 17, 2013 and what type of investigative actions were they subjected to.
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Transparency International – Georgia
Media Development Foundation – MDF