Despite the claims of the representatives of the Government of Georgia that Viktor Japaridze’s visit to a prison (to see Mirza Subeliani) on a non-working is not unusual, information at FactCheck’s disposal shows the opposite. In the last two years during the tenure of the Parliament of the ninth convocation, an MP has never been admitted to a prison on a non-working day, notwithstanding the fact that the MPs, in general, often visit penitentiary facilities (since November 2016, MPs exercised their right 156 times). Therefore, we can conclude that Viktor Japaridze’s visit to see Mirza Subeliani was extraordinary and hastily planned. On 14 October 2018, Rustavi 2 aired

secret audio recordings. The recordings were presumably made on 11 October 2018 at Penitentiary No. 8 and featured a conversation between Mirza Subeliani, who is in pre-trial detention; Georgian Dream MP, Viktor Japaridze, and a former employee of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia, Davit Tsukhishvili. The audio recordings contain Mirza Subeliani’s scandalous statements about notorious criminal cases such as the Khorava Street murders.

One hour before the start of Rustavi 2’s broadcast, the Prosecutor’s Office stated that an investigation on the audio recordings had already been launched. The next day, the Prosecutor’s Office released an official statement

and clarified that proceedings on the audio recordings were started on 12 October. The Prosecutor’s Office also clarified that an investigation was launched on the basis of a statement made by an employee of the special penitentiary service, I.P., who claimed that he had been blackmailed and pressured to make the secret audio recordings with threats to publicise materials about his personal and private life.

On 16 October 2018, given the high public interest, the Prosecutor’s Office released another audio recording

of a conversation between Mirza Subeliani and Viktor Japaridze and declared that the recording was made on 6 July 2018. In accordance with the investigation, “we might be dealing with defendant Mirza Subeliani’s attempt to influence the outcome of the investigation on the charges presented against him by threatening to publish false and made-up criminal facts.”

Based on the audio recordings released by the Prosecutor’s Office, a new assumption was put forth that the previous audio recording (possibly made on 11 October), which was aired on Rustavi 2, was staged and that the facts voiced in the conversation could have been invented by Mirza Subeliani. However, this version was deemed credible mostly by ruling party representatives whilst the audio recording broadcast by the Prosecutor’s Office brought with it more questions than answers for the opposition and the NGO sector. These individuals are of the opinion that the audio recordings of the Prosecutor’s Office could not have been made on 6 July but only after airing the introduction of Post-Scriptum

’s 14 October broadcast.

Suspicions have been further raised by the fact that Viktor Japaridze’s next visit to Mirza Subeliani was held on 14 October 2018 which was a Sunday. The visits of MPs to prisons requires a respective order of the Speaker of the Parliament. As the documents which Liberali

requested from the Parliament of Georgia indicate, Viktor Japaridze addressed the Speaker of the Parliament with a request to authorise his visit to a penitentiary establishment precisely on 14 October. The respective order was issued swiftly and the MP was able to visit the inmate the same day (in addition to 14 October being a Sunday, it was also an official holiday, coinciding with the Day of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral).

The Speaker of the Parliament commented upon his decision to rapidly issue the order on 14 October and stated:

“In total, five orders have been issued and all of them have been issued in accordance with the rules of procedure. In regard to the question as to why Viktor Japaridze wanted to visit Mirza Subeliani in prison, the Speaker of the Parliament does not inquire as to the reason. When the MPs address the Speaker of the Parliament, the Speaker only verifies security issues and then issues a respective order.”

In accordance with Section B of Part 1 of Article 60 of the Imprisonment Code of Georgia as well as Article 151 of the Law of Georgia on the Status of a Member of Parliament and Section 1 of Article 18 of the Rules

of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia, MPs are allowed to visit a penitentiary facility after the Speaker of the Parliament grants the respective authority.

Article 18 of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia also defines the procedures for granting the aforementioned authority to the MP. Specifically, the following bodies are authorised to raise the issue of granting the authority:  1. a committee of the Parliament (only the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee and the Legal Issues Committee) and 2. A temporary investigative commission.

However, this type of authority is granted only in those circumstances when it is necessary for the proceedings of a temporary investigation commission or for studying a specific issue.

The Rules of Procedure underline that a proposal concerning either of the aforementioned Parliamentary committees or the temporary investigative commission should be motivated and contain a time-frame when the MP will be able to exercise this right.

As an exception, however, the Rules of Procedure also envision the right to delegate visits to a penitentiary facility. In particular, Section B of Article 18 reads: “The Speaker of the Parliament is authorised to enter any penitentiary facility on the territory of Georgia without a special permit whilst in the case of necessity he is authorised to delegate this right to a Member of Parliament.” Of note is that all five orders of the Speaker of Parliament are based

on this clause.

The order to delegate Viktor Japaridze, MP, the right to visit the Ministry of Justice’s subordinate state facilities - Special Penitentiary Service No. 8 and Closed Imprisonment Penitentiary Facility (2nd Km, 7th Micro District, Gldani, Tbilisi) without a special permit and meet defendant Mirza Subeliani to check and monitor his imprisonment conditions: On the basis of Section B of Part 1 of Article 60 of the Imprisonment Code of Georgia, Article 151 of the Law of Georgia on the Status of a Member of Parliament, Sections 1 and 8 as well as Sections L, H1 and H6 of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia and in accordance with letter No. 17427 of Viktor Japaridze, MP, dated 14 October 2018.

Given the nature of Article 18 of the Rules of Procedure, we have to differentiate the granting of authority, on the one hand, which requires relatively complicated procedures, and the delegation of authority, on the other hand, which requires the decision of the Speaker of the Parliament. In contrast with the granting of authority which is initiated by an MP (Parliamentary committee or temporary investigative commission), the delegation of authority happens only in the case of necessity and it is mandated by the Speaker of the Parliament himself instead of being initiated by an MP.

In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, if the Speaker of the Parliament grants an authority, then he must have a motivated proposal authored by a respective Parliamentary committee or a temporary investigative commission and not by an MP. If the authority is delegated, there should be a pre-condition which creates the necessity for granting the Speaker’s authority to any other MP. In our case, the order was issued on the basis of an MP’s written request and it was underlined in the order that the authority was delegated and not granted. This, in accordance with Article 18 of the Rules of Procedure, is usually based on a certain type of “necessity” and not a letter from an MP Therefore, the order issued by Irakli Kobakhidze does not correspond with the requirements set out by the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia.

Despite the issue that the Rules of Procedure, in fact, envision quite complicated procedures for MPs to enter penitentiary facilities without a special permit, in practice, a simple request/letter from an MP is sufficient. On the basis of such a request, the Speaker of the Parliament issues a respective order without studying the motivation. Therefore, Viktor Japaridze is not the only one in whose favour the established rule, as enshrined in the Rules of Procedure, has been ignored. However, of the 156 orders issued by the Speaker of the Parliament since November 2016 up to the present day, Mr Japaridze’s case

was the only one when an MP was delegated the right to visit a penitentiary facility without a special permit on a non-working day.

Against the backdrop of attempts to ascertain the extent to which the Rules of Procedure have been observed, there are other interesting factors pertaining to this specific case about which the Speaker of the Parliament has not commented.

In particular, of interest is that the request to issue the order, granting the request and visiting a prison happened in one and the same day (a non-working day) and in rapid sequence.

In addition, the Speaker of the Parliament also issued an order for Viktor Japaridze on 11 October 2018 (three days earlier) and presumably did not take an interest in the reasons behind such frequent visits. This is of interest given the fact that Mirza Subeliani is not an ordinary prisoner and that his name is associated with one of the most notorious cases for which a temporary parliamentary commission was established in order to investigate his possible influence.

As stated by Irakli Kobakhidze, when the MPs address him as the Speaker of the Parliament, he only verifies security questions and then issues the respective order. Therefore, it is disputable whether or not he took the following circumstances into account whilst verifying security questions.

In particular, on 14 October 2018 when Irakli Kobakhidze issued the respective order, information about the aforementioned scandalous audio recordings had already been announced (it is difficult to imagine that the Speaker of the Parliament was not informed about this development). Simultaneously, the investigative proceedings had already been launched and the Speaker of the Parliament was most likely already aware of this. Suspicions about his being pre-informed were raised by his statements made during the session of the Parliamentary Bureau which are similar

to the assumptions voiced after the Prosecutor’s Office released the audio recordings on 16 October. In particular, the Speaker of the Parliament stated that Rustavi 2’s broadcast was a performance staged by the United National Movement. Using the words “your Subeliani” (referring to Mirza Subeliani being a UNM stooge), Irakli Kobakhidze attempted to portray Mirza Subeliani as someone who tries to advance the opposition’s interests.”

It is possible that the Speaker of the Parliament was indeed not informed about all of the aforementioned. Or perhaps he was. But despite all of this, he decided that the visit to the prison was still legitimate and he could not see the dangers within the existing situation. Of final note is the fact that Mirza Subeliani attempted suicide after the broadcast of the audio recordings.