Responding to the news that a court in Georgia has sentenced Nika Gvaramia, the owner and director of pro-opposition news channel Mtavari TV, to three-and-a-half years in prison for abusing his position and harming the financial interests of a television station he had previously ran, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“The sentencing of Nika Gvaramia is a blatant act of politically motivated prosecution in retaliation of his dissenting views and criticism of the authorities. He now faces years behind bars as the government ramps up efforts to silence dissenting voices. Nika Gvaramia must be immediately released.”
“Amnesty International is deeply concerned by the political motivation behind this case, which was designed to stifle freedom of expression. The organisation is concerned that the criminal threshold was not met, as has been confirmed by Transparency International and the Georgian Ombudsperson who monitored the trial. As this case proceeds to appeal these issues must be addressed.“
Amnesty International is deeply concerned by the political motivation behind this case, which was designed to stifle freedom of expressionMarie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia
“Nika Gvaramia’s conviction highlights mounting concerns over declining media freedom in Georgia and exposes the government’s growing influence over the courts in a number of cases aimed at muzzling their critics and opponents.”
On 16 May, the Tbilisi City Court sentenced Nika Gvaramia to three years and six months in prison for “abusing his position” when he worked for the television station Rustavi 2. He was also found guilty of embezzlement, for which he was fined 50,000 Georgian lari (US$ 16,500).
His criminal conviction is based on the allegation that, as a director of Rustavi 2, Nika Gvaramia procured a company car for the TV station, as part of an advertisement deal, and used it for personal reasons. The prosecution also alleged that his failure to act in good faith over this deal harmed the financial interest of the company and amounted to embezzlement.
Nika Gvaramia, who once worked as a lawyer for former President Mikhail Saakashvili, is a prominent critic of the ruling Georgian Dream party.
He was initially charged on 6 September 2020, alongside Kakha Damenia, a former financial director of Rustavi 2, and Zurab Iashvili, the director of Inter Media Plus.