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Georgia13 June 2007

Jailed TV station co-founder does not get presidential pardon, unlike partner

Reporters Without Borders has learned that Chalva Ramishvili, one of the co-founders of independent TV station 202, has not received a presidential pardon, unlike his partner, 202 managing editor David Kokhreidze. The two journalists were convicted on flimsy evidence in March 2006 of extorting money from a parliamentarian. Ramishvili was sentenced to four years in prison. Kokhreidze got three years.

Ramishvili insisted again on his innocence in an open letter published on the front page of the daily Resonances on 7 June, although he acknowledged that inappropriate methods may have been used in an attempt to demonstrate that the parliamentarian concerned was corrupt.

Ramishvili and Kokhreidze were arrested in August 2005 for allegedly trying to extort 100,000 dollars from ruling party deputy Koba Bekauri during an interview he gave them. They were preparing an investigative programme on corruption and were interested in Bekauri’s acquisition of a customs-clearance company in unclear circumstances.

Bekauri himself secretly filmed the interview including the part when the two journalists - they say for the purposes of their programme on corruption - demanded 100,000 dollars from Bekauri in return for not revealing what they had discovered about his dealings. Bekauri then filed a complaint against them, using his film as evidence.

Although the evidence was very thin, Ramishvili and Kokhreidze were convicted on 29 March 2006. Bekauri has since been stripped of his parliamentary immunity for activities incompatible with the office of legislator, and he has resigned as head of the National Movement Party parliamentary group.

Georgia’s independent TV station, 202 is no longer on the air.

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