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Head of Georgian Public Registry ‘sexually harassed’ employees

26 March 2018
Papuna Ugrekhelidze (/ipress.ge)

The Chair of the National Agency of Public Registry sexually harassed an employee, according to the Public Defender’s Office. Papuna Ugrekhelidze has been accused of harassing at least two former or current employees of the agency.

His accuser, who chose not to disclose her name, told TV Imedi on Saturday that the she was forced to quit her job at the Public Registry in 2016 in order to avoid Ugrekhelidze. Ugrekhelidze reportedly began harassing her that year, when she was working under him.

According to the Public Defender’s Office, they confirmed the woman’s story, but a report into the case from last May remains confidential. Liberali, who have seen the report, wrote that Ugrekhelidze called her ‘a squirrel’, sent her heart emojis, and demanded the same from her.

Citing the report, Liberali says he became threatening: ‘Don’t make trouble and do as I say, you haven’t gotten into shit for this long, and you won’t get into shit now either, you must understand my attitude. You’re a big girl, and you should not overstep your boundaries! I will lay a hand on you, and when you are really beaten, then you will understand. You monkey!’

According to her, the agency did not apologise after the Public Defender’s conclusion, and the pressure from Ugrekhelidze continued. ‘He threatened to create problems at my new job as well’, she told Imedi.

During their investigation, Ugrekhelidze reportedly told the Public Defender’s Office that sending heart emojis was ‘natural’, and claimed he had a ‘close relationship’ with his employees. He reportedly confirmed that the threatening letters were sent by him, but claimed they were ‘taken out of context’, Liberali reported.

Rustavi 2 reported later on Saturday that another woman was accusing Ugrekhelidze of sexual harassment. Local rights group the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, who are representing the woman, said this also occurred while she was an employee at the Public Registry.

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Ugrekhelidze, who has served as the Public Registry’s chair since 2013, has not publicly responded to accusations. The Ministry of Justice, under which the agency operates, said he is on a business trip in the US, and will make a statement on his return.

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