The Tbilisi Court of Appeals has reduced the sentences of six men convicted of participating in the July 2021 anti-Pride riots from five to four years.
The six men were involved in the attack on TV Pirveli journalist Miranda Baghaturia and camera operator Alexandre Lashkarava. Lashkarava sustained broken facial bones and a concussion during the attack and died several days later, but an official autopsy released six months later claimed he died of a drug overdose.
Monday’s ruling partially overturned an April 2022 ruling by Tbilisi City Court, which sentenced Akaki Nakashidze, Tornike Davlasheridze, Davit Kutaladze, Otar Gelasvhili, Tsotne Chikhladze, and Gia Giguashvili to five years in prison for attacking Lashkarava and Baghaturia.
Judge Maia Tetrauli of the Appeals Court cleared the men of ‘participating in group violence’.
The riots were largely coordinated by far-right group Alt Info on their TV station and on social media, with leaders of the group directing rioters where to go.
The Appeals Court upheld their convictions for intentional less grave bodily injury, interference with a journalist’s professional activities, and persecution on the basis of a person’s professional activities using violence.
Tetrauli also dismissed a motion by the Prosecutor’s Office to charge Chikhladze, one of the convicted six, with intentionally inflicting serious harm to the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s camera operator Ilia Tvaliashvili. Tvaliashvili’s eyesight was damaged as a result of the attack.
‘Error 404. Justice not found’, Tbilisi Pride, the queer rights group that planned to hold a pride march on 5 July in 2021 commented as the news broke.
The Prosecutor’s Office vowed to challenge the appeals court ruling in the Supreme Court.
However, rights group the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) cast doubt on the Prosecutor’s Office’s commitment to bringing to justice the perpetrators of the riots. GYLA called the Appeals Court's ruling ‘another example of encouraging a syndrome of impunity over the violence by hate groups’.
‘It is crucial to underline that it is the same Prosecutor’s Office that covers for the main organisers of the violence’, they said in a statement.
GYLA and other local rights groups, as well as the Georgian Public Defender, have repeatedly called for Alt Info’s leadership to be investigated for their role in the 5 July violence, a move the Prosecutor’s Office has declined to make.
The Georgian authorities initially charged 27 individuals for the riots organised by the extremist group Alt Info. None of the organisers of the violent attacks was charged.
During the riots, Alt Info ransacked anti-government tents in downtown Tbilisi, and attempted to hunt down and attack organisers and supporters of the Pride March as well as media workers covering the incident.
At least 53 journalists sustained injuries after being attacked by violent mobs, while some have been unable to continue work due to physical or psychological trauma.
[Read more on OC Media: Journalists recall day of terror in Tbilisi]
Lashkarava’s colleague, Miranda Baghaturia, left the profession soon after his death.