Zviad Devdariani, the former head of Georgian non-governmental organisation CIDA who is facing allegations of sexual harassment from at least 10 women, has announced he will sue his accusers for ‘violating his and his family’s dignity’. On Tuesday, Devdariani held a press briefing with his lawyer where he vowed to pursue legal means to ‘protect his dignity’, as he claimed the ‘court of Facebook’ had already found him guilty.
In the 3 April, Devdariani also told journalists he is ready to cooperate with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who have launched an investigation into the allegations against him for ‘stalking’, as there is no law in Georgia against sexual harassment.
Devdariani also called on the Public Defender’s Office to examine the case.
He also vowed to request the Prosecutor’s Office investigate the publication of private messages he had sent to several of his accusers.
In an interview with the Georgian Public Broadcaster later that evening, Devdariani suggested the allegations against him had been concocted by the government as well as an unnamed opposition party.
‘The ruling party was interested in these developments. At the same time, one of the opposition parties and the forces associated to them had a different interest. By striking Devdariani, they were striking at the public defender. She is newly elected and was backed by the ruling party, but not from all the opposition’, Devdariani said on 3 April.
The biggest opposition party in parliament, European Georgia, abstained from voting on the appointment of the new public defender, Nino Lomjaria, while the Alliance of Patriots party presented their own candidate.
Devdariani claimed to have ‘long known’ that police had been gathering ‘kompromat’ against him. He said there were other ‘personal issues’ because of which he and his friends were ‘attacked as members of active civil society groups’.
Devdariani’s lawyer, Dimitri Gabunia, spoke in support of Devdariani at the briefing.
‘What did Devdariani do that we don’t all do? I’m talking about chatting. Or shall we ban private chatting and communication? Where is the line between a crime and private relations. This is what should be determined’.
Despite the women accusing Devdariani of sexual harassment remaining anonymous, Devdariani said he knew who was behind the allegations and would sue them.
[Read on OC Media: No laws, just shame: Sexual harassment in the South Caucasus]
Devdariani, who has been an outspoken advocate of women's rights, has been accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault by at least 10 women, charges he denies.
Accusations emerged after he was nominated on 16 March for a spot on the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) Board of Trustees by the Public Defender. A number of women posted accusations of harassment against him in a closed Facebook group for women’s rights activists. The Public Defender’s Office said they were unaware of the allegations when they nominated Devdariani.
The Public Defender later said that some stories shared by women about Devdariani may amount to ‘sexual abuse’.
Devdariani resigned a director of CiDA, who had initially released a statement in support of him, on 22 March.
In response to his resignation, CiDA said that ‘the Board of CiDA condemns sexual or any kind of harassment and violence and is concerned with the situation’, adding that they realise allegations against Devdariani ‘cast a shadow not only on the organisation [CiDA], but on civil society as a whole’.
[Read more about Devdariani’s case on OC Media: NGO head and women’s rights proponent ‘sexually assaulted women’]