Georgian opposition TV channel co-founder Giorgi Rurua sentenced to 4 years in prison
Georgian opposition figure and co-founder of TV channel Mtavari Arkhi – Giorgi Rurua has been sentenced to four years in prison for the illegal possession and carrying of firearms. U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair James Risch called upon the Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili to pardon Rurua, who is considered to be a political prisoner by the Georgian opposition. Zurabishvili denied both, pardon for Rurua as well as existence political prisoners in Georgia.
The Tbilisi City Court found Rurua guilty on July 30 and sentenced him the same day. His lawyer has told the media that they „were expecting an unfair verdict,“ adding that they will appeal the court’s decision.
Rurua was arrested November 18, 2019, for illegal possession and carrying of a firearm, shortly after attending a meeting of opposition forces. Nika Gvaramia, the director of Mtavari Arkhi, has written about Rurua’s arrest on his Facebook page that the „firearm was planted on Giorgi Rurua“.
Moreover, the opposition says Rurua’s release constituted a part of the electoral system agreement signed by the ruling party and the opposition party on March 8 of this year. The ruling Georgian Dream party, however, denies the existence of the second part as well as it denies the existence of political prisoners in Georgia. It was because of Rurua that The United National Movement and European Georgia opposition parties refused to vote for constitutional changes earlier this year. Both parties later strongly condemned German ambassador to Georgia Hubert Knirsch who, as one of the facilitators in the ruling Georgian Dream party and the united opposition’s election talks, claimed, that Rurua was not mentioned in the March 8 election agreement.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair James Risch said on July 30 that he „remains very concerned“ about sentencing Giorgi Rurua „on spurious charges“. „As she did earlier with Giorgi Ugulava and Irakli Okruashvili, President Zurabishvili should pardon Mr Rurua in the interest of depolarising the political climate as elections near,“ noted the U.S. Senator.
Zurabishvili responded to Senator by claiming that there are no political prisoners in Georgia. „Georgian society knows everything about him, and it also knows why I will not pardon him. Nothing and no one can influence my decision, „added the President.
In mid-May, Zurabishvili already pardoned two opposition politicians – Gigi Ugulava, the leader of European Georgia-Movement for Freedom and a former mayor of Tbilisi, and former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, who leads the opposition Victorious Georgia party.
Giorgi Rurua is the brother of a deceased official under the previous United National Movement government – Nikoloz Rurua.