Tbilisi City Court judge Lasha Chkhikvadze said on Friday that the US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan was likely to “punish” him for sending the chair of the opposition-minded Mtavari channel Nika Gvaramia to prison in May of this year and his visit to America through the embassy-funded project was canceled.
Chkhikvadze claimed after he announced the verdict in the Gvaramia’s case, he had a meeting with one of the employees of the US Embassy, Kevin Burke of the US Department of Justice, in the building of the Tbilisi City Court.
“During the conversation he asked me about the factual circumstances of the case and told me that the ambassador was interested in why I delivered a guilty verdict and sentenced Gvaramia to prison. In my estimation, it was demanding explanations over the specific case. In a few days after the trial I should have left for the US on a planned visit with five other judges. However, I was removed from the list,” Chkhikvadze stated.
He suggested that the decision was “very surprising to him,” adding that “now some political forces are threatening me with sanctions” for the judgment.
“I do not want my fellow judges to go through the same thing, to discuss the case under great pressure,” Chkhikvadze said.
He called on political parties, the diplomatic corps, international and non-governmental organizations operating in Georgia to refrain from “putting pressure” on the court and allow judges to administer justice in a peaceful environment.
Gvaramia was found guilty of causing a ₾6,763,509 damage to Rustavi 2 TV between 2015-2019, while heading the channel, through advertising deals, and was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for abuse of power.
The US Embassy had dismissed any links between the case and the removal of Chkhikvadze from its project.