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Georgian taxi driver acquitted of kidnapping Russian-speaking passengers

9 September 2022
Amiran Bokuchava (middle) and his two lawyers, Irakli Chomakhashvili (left) and Teona Gvazava (right).

On Friday, the jury at Rustavi City Court acquitted a taxi driver of having kidnapped two Russian-speaking passengers. The driver alleged that a conflict arose when he refused to switch off Ukrainian music playing on the radio. 

Amiran Bokuchava, the taxi driver, was accused of kidnapping and illegally depriving two Russian speakers — a Russian and a Lithuanian — of their freedom on 11 April 2022. 

His lawyer, Irakli Chomakhashvili, maintains that after Bokuchava picked up the two passengers from Tbilisi International Airport, he was asked to speak in Russian and to switch off Ukrainian music playing on the radio. 

The lawyer claims that the driver refused, and subsequently dropped the passengers off at Gombori Pass, around 60 kilometres northeast of the airport.

However, on Friday, the Prosecutor General’s Office released a conflicting statement from the two plaintiffs, who claim that they had hailed a cab using Yandex. Upon arrival at the hotel where they planned to stay in the centre of Tbilisi, the driver demanded a payment of  ₾195 ($68) instead of the ₾23 ($8) indicated on the application.

According to the plaintiffs, when they suggested settling the dispute with the police, Bokuchava locked the doors, drove them towards Gardabani, southeast of Tbilisi, and demanded a payment of ₾500 ($175) in exchange for their freedom.

The prosecutor’s office’s statement goes on to say that the passengers jumped out of the car on the way there. The taxi driver then threw out their belongings and fled the scene.

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Bokuchava was placed in preventive detention two days after the incident.

Chomakashvili confirmed that all 12 jurors in the case acquitted his client and that they did not believe the plaintiffs’ version of the story, as it was ‘confirmed that the rear door was unlocked and that they had a cellphone’.

The verdict is final; as in Georgian legislation an acquittal by jury cannot be appealed. 

According to Chomakashvili, Bokuchava could have been sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison if he was found guilty.

‘Today, in the name of the people, we defeated Russian imperialism', the lawyer wrote on Facebook.

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