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Georgia8 April 2008

Panel recommends presidential pardon for jailed TV journalist

A government commission that considers presidential pardons included journalist Chalva Ramishvili, one of the co-founders of independent TV station 202, in a list of 100 names submitted to the president on 2 April, although the journalist did not request a pardon.

Ramishvili, who is serving a four-year jail sentence for an alleged attempt to extort money from a parliamentarian, has always refused to request a pardon because he insists on his innocence being recognised. The commission nonetheless decided to examine his case because of pleas on his behalf from civil society.

Ramishvili and 202 co-founder David Kokhreidze were convicted on 29 March 2006 of trying to extort money dollars from ruling party deputy Koba Bekauri during an interview. 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.

Kokhreidze, who got a three-year sentence, requested and obtained a presidential pardon last year. In an open letter on 7 June 2007, Ramishvili recognised that he used inappropriate methods but continue to insist on his innocence.

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