On 28 October 2015, Rustavi 2’s attorney, Zaza Bibilashvili, assessed the legal dispute between Rustavi 2 and Kibar Khalvashi. "Judge Urtmelidze is completely out of control. He has gone beyond the legal framework. He appointed another hearing tomorrow which is the fifth one in nine workdays. I believe this is a criminal offence," said Mr Bibilashvili.


took interest in the accuracy of this statement.

The legal dispute between Kibar Khalvashi and Rustavi 2 has turned into the most spoken about case for the past several months. The dispute began on 4 August 2015 with a legal complaint which was followed by rulings on 5 August 2015 and 30 September 2015 for the seizure of Rustavi 2’s movable property and real estate as well as the shares of its partners including TV Sakartvelo’s 51% ownership of the Rustavi 2 company. FactCheck has written about the events unfolding around the aforementioned legal dispute earlier as well (see Article 1, Article 2 and Article 3).

According to Kibar Khalvashi’s claims, he was forced to give up his property in 2006 due to pressure from the previous government. Subsequently, he has demanded that the agreement made under duress be declared void and his ownership of Rustavi 2 shares reinstated. In addition, he requested recognition as the author of the company’s logo as well as the Georgian versions of different television shows and compensation for copyright violation.

The Rustavi 2 case was initially being considered by Judge Tamaz Urtmelidze with the defence having requested a change of judge several times based upon various grounds such as, for example, its doubts about Mr Urtmelidze’s impartiality. According to the defence’s statement, the claimant’s complaint purposely included a legal dispute concerning intellectual property in order for the judge usually dealing with legal cases about this issue to be assigned to the case so that the government (through the Prosecutor’s Office) could influence the decisions. Specifically, according to the statement of the defence, the Prosecutor’s Office commenced proceedings against Judge Urtmelidze’s mother for premeditated minor injury inflicted on 7 January 2014 in parallel to the Rustavi 2 court trial.

According to Tbilisi City Court’s information, Judge Urtmelidze considers type D disputes only. Specifically, he considers cases not involving disputes, simplified procedure cases, legal disputes connected with labour, disputes concerning the damage to the life or health of employees, cases concerning personal non-property rights and legal disputes of an intellectual property nature.

Hence, it must have been a great challenge for Judge Urtmelidze to consider a case whose main issue (deeming the share purchase agreement as void) consisted of a dispute quite different from those normally and previously assigned to him. In addition, it is worth noting that despite the case’s high public interest and its difficulty, Judge Urtmelidze did not grant the defence’s request for the case to be considered by a panel consisting of three judges. He, despite the category of the dispute under consideration and in the considerably tense atmosphere, considered the case in a short amount of time and took the full weight of responsibility upon himself. His 5 November 2015 ruling, which suggests that he studied the legal practice used in courts in the United States within a short amount of time and established the institute of a temporary manager which is previously unheard of in Georgian legal practice, is of particular note.

Zaza Bibilashvili’s statement questioning the practice of holding five hearings in nine workdays concerns the period of time from 19 October 2015 (the case has been under active consideration since this date). Hearings were held on 19, 22, 26, 28 and 29 October 2015. According to the attorney’s statement, the judge’s actions raised suspicions that he was purposely trying to accelerate the pace of the case which might have served the interest of certain individuals and which is a criminal offense by a state official as provided for in the Criminal Code of Georgia.

In order to find out how common it is to hold five hearings in nine workdays, most of which are of a day-long duration, FactCheck

requested information from Tbilisi City Court.

According to the statement of the Court, they do not process and record information concerning the frequency and length of hearings on specific cases. In addition, the Court failed to provide information about how many hearings last from 10:00 am to 18:00 pm. However, other information which they provided makes it clear that judges are overloaded with their cases which renders it is almost impossible to allocate 20 hours in nine workdays for one single case. According to the current statistics, a total of 2,413 complaints were received for processing in Tbilisi City Court in October 2015 and they were distributed to 29 judges. Judge Urtmelidze received only 54 new cases in October 2015 whilst in November (as of 4 November 2015) he was given 64 of the 350 cases.

In total, Judge Urtmelidze had 489 cases to consider from 10 October to 4 November. Of these, seven hearings were held on the Rustavi 2 case alone in October 2015. The majority of the hearings lasted for a whole day.

Given the fact that Tbilisi City Court was overloaded with complaints, their allocating so much time to the Rustavi 2 case is beyond reasonable expectation. As they informed us, a total of 14 halls are used for considering court cases and about seven to ten hearings are scheduled in each hall during a day with the hearings themselves being held with intervals from 15 to 30 minutes. This is further confirmed by the information on the Court’s website which shows the number of hearings assigned to a specific judge and planned in a specific hall as well as the intervals between these hearings. By reviewing this information, we found that Judge Urtmelidze did not have any other cases when considering the Rustavi 2 case and a separate hall was allocated for this case alone whilst he used to have from 15 to 20 hearings per day on other days.

It is also interesting that on 28 October 2015, when considering the Rustavi 2 case for eight hours, Judge Urtmelidze had eight other cases to consider as well although none of them was in any way connected to Rustavi 2. In order to find out the time when these schedules are placed on the website and what might cause such errors in the schedule, we spoke with a person responsible for public information at Tbilisi City Court. After being redirected several times, we were told by Judge Urtmelidze’s assistant that since we were neither the interested parties to the case nor their representatives, they were not allowed to answer our questions of this nature. Hence, we failed to find out how the Rustavi 2 case was considered on 28 October 2015 (as it cannot be found in the electronic schedule) and what happened to those eight additional cases pending on the day and replaced by the Rustavi 2 case.

Judge Urtmelidze explained considering this case with such an accelerated pace owing to the overwhelming public interest. It should be noted that the speedy resolution of the dispute was in the interests of both parties (for example, according to numerous statements of Rustavi 2’s management, the company’s proper functioning was under risk). This said, acting at a hurried pace should not compromise a decision’s impartiality nor should it even raise any suspicions thereto.


interviewed the Chairman of the Georgian Bar Association, Zaza Khatiashvili, about this issue. According to his statement, the fact that five hearings were scheduled for a single case in nine workdays is not, in itself, an illegal action. However, it should also be noted that in practice, it sometimes takes a year for a court to consider a very simple case and working with such an accelerated pace happens very rarely and only if certain “interests” are present.

In this article, FactCheck merely attempted to establish whether or not it is legally possible to hold five hearings for a single case in nine workdays. As it turned out, the suspicions about the court considering this case in too much of a hurried pace are not entirely ungrounded. Despite its opinion, FactCheck leaves the article WITHOUT VERDICT and would be grateful for the legal opinions of practicing lawyers (whether or not such cases have taken place in the past, can the impartiality of the court be guaranteed in such cases and so on) about this issue.