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Former Georgian officials found guilty of framing photographers

21 July 2017
Tbilisi City Court (Facebook)

Tbilisi City Court has found two former government officials guilty of abuse of authority, in a high-profile case involving a number of photographers.

The two men, Davit Devnozashvili and Aleksandre Mukhadze, were convicted of abuse of authority with violence and violating human dignity, the Court ruled on 20 July.

Devnozashvili, a former senior counterintelligence officer, and Mukhadze, former warden of Prison #8 , were sentenced to 4.5 and 1.5 years in prison respectively.

The case, often referred to as the ‘case of photographers’, involves Georgian photographers who were charged with espionage in 2011.

Four photographers including Zurab Kurtsikidze of the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) and Irakli Gedenidze — then personal photographer of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili — had been accused of espionage by Saakashvili’s government.

The case was classified secret on the grounds that it involved ‘sensitive information concerning national security’.

Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office said in December 2016 that the detention was illegal and the charges were bogus.

According to the court, the photographers were detained for documenting an anti-government rally on 26 May 2011, during which police used tear gas and rubber bullets to suppress the protests.

According to the court, the former officials were guilty of forcing the photographers to admit to espionage, which they did not commit.

Devnozashvili is involved in another case connected to Batumi-based newspaper Batumelebi.

A 2011 investigation from Batumelebi claimed that Devnozashvili threatened to release compromising materials about journalist Tedo Jorbenadze’s personal life unless he agreed to cooperate with police. In 2013, the newspaper also accused another policemen, Zaza Gujabidze, of threatening Jorbenadze.

The ongoing case involving Batumelebi is still classified top secret.

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