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Actor Giorgi Giorganashvili who had been detained on drug charges, was released on bail on 14 July, after tens of protesters rallied in his support the previous day.
Tbilisi City Court released Giorganashvili’s on ₾20,000 ($8,400) bail. He claims he was illegally kept in custody for more than five months as ‘the police planted drugs on him’.
Giorganashvili, also known as Bakhala, was arrested on 29 January 2017 for ‘possessing buprenorphine’, an opioid used to treat opioid addiction, while travelling from western Georgia to Tbilisi.
The actor faces from 8–20 years in prison or a life sentence.
Giorganashvili has pleaded innocent, accusing the police of planting the drugs on him.
A rally to support Giorganashvili was held on 13 July in Tbilisi’s Dedaena Park, where supporters urged authorities to change legislation and decriminalise drug possession.
Searches without witnesses
Drug policy activists have claimed that a rule allowing courts to place a person in jail after hearing testimonies only from police, without requiring a third party to be present during the search, has to be amended.
‘As in many cases in recent months, the only witnesses [of Giorganashvili’s drug-examination] are police officers. After detaining Bakhala, they examined him at a place with no cameras and despite Giorgi’s demand to have a third party witness during the examination, they were the only ones who were present’, the organisers of the rally, White Noise Movement, a group of independent drug policy activists, said on 13 July.
On 6 June, a rap duo were arrested in Tbilisi and charged with illegally purchasing and holding especially large amounts of the recreational psychoactive drug MDMA. They claimed that the drugs were planted on them, and that they were arrested for a recent music video they released depicting a police officer as a dog. The police officials have denied the claim.
After widespread public backlash, Tbilisi CIty Court released them on bail, but the charges have not been dropped and the duo may still face life imprisonment.
[Read more on OC Media: Birja Mafia rap duo face life imprisonment on drug charges]
As an alternative to what they describe as ‘draconial drug policy’, local rights organisations have proposed a bill to decriminalise possession of all drugs. The bill, was developed by Tbilisi-based advocacy group the National Drug Policy Platform, which consists of over 40 NGOs, and has been put before Georgia’s Parliament by the Parliamentary Health Committee. The core principle of the changes would be to move the country’s drug policy away from a criminal justice approach, treating drug use instead as a public health issue. The parliament is likely to consider the bill during the autumn plenary sessions.