In spite of opposition protests and a boycott by the opposition, the Georgian Dream majority in parliament has confirmed Irakli Shotadze, the former Chief Prosecutor of Georgia, as Chief Prosecutor once again.
Shotadze served in the position from November 2015 until the spring of 2018, when he was forced to resign amidst large street rallies in Tbilisi over his and other officials’ handling of the Khorava Street killings.
As Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia entered the Parliament amidst protest chants from opposition supporters on 18 February, he hailed Shotadze as a ‘worthy professional able to make a difficult decision and take responsibility’.
While preparing for a ‘large’ anti-government rally slated for 4 April, European Georgia, New Georgia, and other groups promised to ‘disturb’ Shotadze’s confirmation on Tuesday.
In the morning, before the new Chief Prosecutor was confirmed for a six-year term, opposition activists organised ‘corridors of shame’ and blew vuvuzelas in protest of Georgian Dream MPs going into the parliament building.
Later that day, before Shotade’s fate was decided, European Georgia’s MP Elene Khoshtaria and others interrupted Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze’s speech during the plenary session by playing the Soviet anthem through amplifiers.
Resistance to Shotadze’s candidacy is part of the opposition coalition’s protest against uninvestigated crimes, politically motivated prosecutions, and against Georgian Dream backtracking on the promise to reform Georgia’s electoral system by making it fully proportional.
The Chief Prosecutor’s post became vacant after Shalva Tadumadze, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s former lawyer and parliamentary ex-secretary, opted for a lifetime tenure in Georgia’s Supreme Court.
‘Botched’ investigation into the fatal stabbing of two teenagers
The protests that led to Shotadze’s resignation in 2018 began after the Tbilisi City Court made it clear that prosecutors had failed to identify all of the killers of 16-year-old Davit Saralidze. Saralidze was one of two boys fatally stabbed during a school brawl in Tbilisi in December 2017.
Saralidze’s father, Zaza Saralidze, led large street rallies in the capital in protest at what he said was a ‘compromised investigation’.
He was supported by several opposition parties and local rights groups, who accused the authorities of sabotaging the investigation into the killings. They accused Mirza Subeliani, the father and uncle of two participants of the brawl and a high ranking employee at the Prosecutor’s Office of tampering with evidence and pressuring witnesses.
In September 2018, an opposition-led parliamentary commission into the stabbings produced a damning 67-page report confirming the father’s claims, and accusing Shotadze of either ‘negligence’ or ‘abuse of power’.
After the resignation
Shotadze’s name resurfaced several times following his resignation.
In September, TBC Bank founder and newcomer to Georgian politics Mamuka Khazaradze accused former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of pressuring him ‘several years ago’ by having then-Chief Prosecutor Shotadze present at an informal meeting.
According to Khazaradze, the meeting concerned his legal dispute with businessman Ivane Chkhartishvili.
‘I left the meeting with a heavy heart because I witnessed how issues are solved in the country. An actual [Chief] Prosecutor discusses with you who is right and wrong […]This shows that institutional order is dysfunctional in the country’, Khazaradze claimed in an interview with Palitra News on 12 September.
Georgian Dream dismissed the allegation as ‘gossip’ but Shotadze confirmed he was present at the ‘friendly’ meeting
Attack on Tordia
In 2017, the Chair of Georgia’s State Audit Service Lasha Tordia accused Shotadze of covering for former Chief Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze, whom Shotadze previously described as his ‘friend’.
In November 2013, Shotadze was appointed First Deputy Prosecutor under Partskhaladze, who served as Chief Prosecutor for just 47 days.
Tordia claimed that on 12 May 2017, Otar Partskhaladze attacked him in a restaurant in Tbilisi after his office investigated real estate corruption between him and Tbilisi City Hall.
Tordia accused the Chief Prosecutor’s Office under Shotadze and the Interior Ministry of failing to probe the findings by his office, which later also ‘encouraged’ Partskhaladze to retaliate against him.
Tordia also accused Shotadze of being behind an anonymous leak of footage of an altercation Tordia had in 2016 with others, in order to ‘smear’ him amidst allegations he levied against Partskhaladze over the May assault.
Partskhaladze was charged over the brawl six months after Shotadze resigned. He was released on bail soon after on the prosecution’s request.
While the case is still in court, Shotadze’s successor, Shalva Tadumadze praised Partskhaladze in July for ‘forging transparency and openness’ in the Chief Prosecutor’s Office.
‘This Concerns You’, a campaign against illegal wiretapping uniting several rights groups, demanded Shotadze step down less than five months after he became Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor for ‘ineffective’ investigations against unlawful recordings.
Local rights advocates had been demanding that Georgian Dream thoroughly probe illegally obtained and leaked recordings, including sex tapes, since they gained power in 2012. They insisted on Shotadze’s resignation after in March 2016, several public figures were anonymously blackmailed with online leaks.
The leaking of intimate footage of government critics as a form of blackmail has continued to plague Georgian politics up to late 2019.
[Read more on OC Media: Four Georgian officials allegedly targetted in new sex-tape scandal]
Unsolved investigations into Mukhtarli’s abduction and Machalikashvili’s death
Under Shotadze, the state prosecution also took over the investigation into the disappearance of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukharli from Tbilisi on 29 May 2017.
The case, initially investigated by the Interior Ministry, still remains unsolved and has not progressed after then-Chief Prosecutor Shotadze argued it could not do so as Azerbaijan had prevented Georgian investigators from questioning Mukhtarli.
Mukhtarli appeared in Azerbaijani custody the day after last being seen in Tbilisi. He was later charged with smuggling €10,000 in cash, illegal border crossing, and resisting police, eventually being sentenced to six years imprisonment.
Mukhtarli’s supporters and human rights advocates held several rallies in Tbilisi demanding a proper investigation.
According to a survey from the Caucasus Research Resource Centers commissioned by Transparency International — Georgia on the anniversary of Mukhtarli's disappearance, 33% of respondents said they believed the Georgian authorities were somehow involved in the incident.
On 16 January, EMC named the fatal shooting of Temirlan Machalikashvili, a 19-year-old ethnic Kist from Georgia’s Pankisi Valley in late 2017, as another high profile case that the Prosecutor's Office under Shotadze failed to investigate.
Later that month, the Prosecutor’s Office, still under Shalva Tadumadze, closed the investigation into possible excessive use of force against Temirlan Machalikashvili, finding no fault in the security services’ actions.
[Read EMC’s Tamta Mikeladze’s opinion on OC Media: Nearly two years after the killing of Temirlan Machalikashvili there are still no answers]