A TV host and actor were found guilty of ‘illegally purchasing and holding an especially large amount’ of the recreational psychoactive drug, MDMA, by the Tbilisi City Court on 23 March.
The court sentenced Levan Rostoshvili, former host of Rustavi2’s ‘Nanuka’s Show’, an entertainment programme, and actor Lasha Kurtanidze to eight and five years in prison respectively. The court’s decision can be appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Georgia’s drug policy has recently been under fire from human rights and civil society groups in the country. After Georgia’s top court, the Constitutional Court, ruled in 2016 that imprisonment is too harsh a punishment for cannabis use, rights organisations expected a complete overhaul of drugs laws.
However, the government does not appear to be softening its long-criticised policy. A bill developed by the Ministry of Justice only envisions dropping imprisonment for the use of marijuana, which was already guaranteed by the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
According to research conducted for the Council of Europe, drug offences were the number one reason for which prisoners were sentenced in 2015, accounting for roughly every third prisoner (2,700 people) in Georgia’s jails.
In addition to detaining individuals for possessing even small amounts of drugs, there have been several claims that the police plant drugs on people connected to opposition figures. Last week the Georgian President’s daughter, Ana Margvelashvili, said that her close friend Mikheil Tatarashvili was detained on 17 March for ‘having 18 pills of subutex’ an opioid medication. She claims that the evidence of drug possession was fabricated by the police. She claims his detention was connected to her father’s reluctance to cooperate with the ruling Georgian Dream party.
The sons of Eliso Kiladze, a journalist reportedly connected to the opposition United National Movement (UNM) party, and UNM member Khatia Dekanoidze, were detained on 16 March on charges of drug possession. The journalist and politician also claim that evidence was fabricated in their sons’ cases as well.
Interior Minister Giorgi Mghebrishvili responded to the accusations on 20 March, claiming that ‘nobody plants anything on anyone’ . ‘The facts are real’, he added.