Georgian professional tennis player Nikoloz Basilashvili has been charged with attacking his ex-wife, Neka Dorokashvili, in the presence of their young child.
Basilashvili, who is ranked 27th in the world, was arrested on 22 May and released on ₾100,000 ($31,000) bail by Tbilisi City Court.
Tbilisi City Court will start hearing the case on 16 July. If found guilty, Basilashvili faces up to three years in prison.
Dorokashvili has accused her ex-husband of assaulting her throughout their marriage. Basilashvili, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, said he would not comment on the matter publicly and would prove his innocence in court.
Dorokashvili told Rustavi 2 that Basilashvili attacked her while she was visiting his parents’ house to pick up their son. She said she did not know the reason for the alleged attack but that it had nothing to do with their divorce settlement, which she said ‘ended in his favour’.
She told TV Imedi that Basilashvili had assaulted her systematically throughout their marriage and that this continued even after their divorce.
‘The violence was permanent. I was thinking it would end after the divorce. I didn’t speak up before because I was protecting the family, you know how it is in Georgia, I was protecting the dignity of the family, I was protecting my son’, said Dorokashvili.
‘However, after the divorce, this is how things continued and it had almost fatal consequences for me and my son.’
She said that after she fled the scene, Basilashvili’s father chased after her and her child with what looked like an axe in his hand.
‘I don’t know what happened to him, maybe he was drunk or something. He ran after me and my son with some kind of weapon in his hand. He says it was a guitar, but I think it was an axe.’
Basilashvili’s lawyer, Irma Chkadua, told journalists on Sunday that if her former father in law had assaulted her, he would have been arrested too. She did not respond to a question about whether a restraining order had been placed against him.
The prosecutor in the case, Natia Guruli, told journalists that a restraining order had indeed been issued against Basilashvili’s father, however, she added that Dorokashvili herself ‘doesn’t admit that there was physical violence from him against her’.
Dorokashvili said she escaped Basilashvili’s parents’ house by jumping into a stranger’s car passing by.
On Sunday, Basilashvili’s official Facebook page posted a family statement apologising for the ‘false accusations’ against them.
‘We state with full responsibility that the information about violence doesn’t correspond to the truth and there is no evidence proving such a fact. This is not the first time that Neli [Neka] Dorokashvili, Nikoloz’s former wife, has tried to inflict moral, financial, or reputational harm to Nikoloz and his family’, the statement reads.
The statement said that Dorokashvili had initially refused to sign divorce papers and that after the divorce was formalised, the couple had no relations other than caring for their child.
‘After the divorce, Neli Dorokashvili also groundlessly sued Nikoloz Basilashvili’s mother for violence against her child. After consideration, the court ruled in Basilashvili’s mother’s favour’, the statement said.
Ana Abashidze, the director of Partnership for Human Rights, a local rights group that is representing Dorokashvili, said on Monday that a restraining order against Basilashvili’s mother was issued for psychological violence against her grandson.
She said that the court of Appeals later overturned the restraining order ‘groundlessly, amid stereotypical and prejudicial assumptions’. She added that her organisation planned to appeal this decision.
Later on Sunday, Basilashvili posted another statement on his page in which he said he was confident he’d prove the truth in the court.
‘I’m sorry and I apologise to society for the developments around my family. I always feel your support and love, for which I’m infinitely grateful’, said Basilashvili.
Reactions to the arrest
The Georgian National Olympic Committee addressed the allegations against Basilashvili in a statement on Monday. The committee said the knew Bailashvili as a ‘calm and balanced person’ and added that it was regrettable that his personal reputation had come into question because of these developments.
‘Of course, we condemn any kind of violence, however, we hereby call on all sides to protect the presumption of innocence and avoid ungrounded accusations before the court’s ruling’, they said.
Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria said that her office would be observing the investigation into the alleged violence.
‘I would like to express my support to the woman who has suffered. I call on all governmental bodies to do their best to protect her from physical and psychological violence’, she wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
Others have spoken out in Basilashvili’s defence. Shota Arveladze, a former Georgian Football player who currently manages Uzbek club Pakhtakor Tashkent said that he was against violence, especially against women ‘who make our lives beautiful’, but that he supported Basilashvili.
‘I don’t know him personally, however, I’d like to express my support to him during these hard times’, Arveladze wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
Ana Abashidze, the director of Partnership for Human Rights, said that Basilashvili’s success did not give him the right to assault anyone.
‘Nikoloz Basilashvili is a truly successful person in the world of sports, his achievements are outstanding. However, this doesn’t mean that he is authorised to assault anyone because of his success and that we should be silent because of that’, said Abashidze.