Tamara Mearakishvili, an ethnic-Georgian activist and journalist in South Ossetia, has mounted a successful legal challenge to prevent the authorities from dropping charges against her without acknowledging that they were baseless.
Mearakishvili won a lawsuit against South Ossetia’s Prosecutor’s Office.
She filed the suit in the South Ossetian courts in April in response to a decision by the General Prosecutor’s Office to end several criminal cases against her without giving her the chance to clear her name.
Before charging her in March 2018 with forging documents to obtain South Ossetian citizenship, In 2017 the South Ossetian authorities also probed Mearakishvili for slander for her comments on corruption in South Ossetia.
The protracted cases have prevented her from leaving the region for years.
Akhalgori (Leningor) District, where Mearakishvili is from, is mostly populated by ethnic Georgians who require documents issued both by Georgian and South Ossetian authorities to cross over to Georgia-controlled territory and back.
Mearakishvili told OC Media on 16 May that last June, the Prosecutor’s Office offered to end all the cases against her due to the statute of limitations having passed, a process that required her consent.
She refused to sign the documents.
‘I immediately notified them upon my visit to the Prosecutor’s Office that I disagreed with this reason because it would imply I was agreeing I had committed crimes. More importantly, it meant I would be foregoing my right to be legally rehabilitated’, Mearakishvili said.
According to her, in March, the Leningor branch of South Ossetia’s General Prosecutor’s Office ignored her refusal and unilaterally issued a decree dropping the cases against her. Mearakishvili, insisting that they had failed to prove she was guilty in South Ossetia’s courts, responded with a lawsuit.
On 16 May, according to Mearakishvili, the Tskhinval City Court agreed with her argument and voided the decision by the Prosecutor’s Office to drop the charges against her.
‘During these five years, they’ve tried to stop me through threats, attempts to bribe me, or offers of official positions, but I kept refusing them. I want to end it; I want to have a rest, but not by trampling my dignity. I did not commit a crime and I have to have the final verdict from the court’, she said.
In March, Mearakishvili publicly appealed to South Ossetia’s Prosecutor General, Magomed Bagayev, in a post on Facebook challenging his office to ‘prove’ that she was guilty.
‘If [I’m] not, then write: “We are suspending the case due to the lack of evidence” and we can go our separate ways’, she wrote.
Mearakishvili said the cases aimed to make a criminal of her, and had failed after ‘five years of persecution, stress, and restriction of free movement’ which she said had damaged her health.
Besides frequently taking aim at the South Ossetian authorities over a number of issues over the years, Mearakishvili has also been critical of the Georgian authorities for neglecting or failing to advocate for her rights.
[Read more on OC Media: Tamara Mearakishvili: 'If I'm found guilty, I will not run away’]
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.