The prosecutor’s office arrested former members of the Georgian-Azerbaijani state commission on the Delimitation – Demarcation of the Georgian-Azerbaijani border, Iveri Melashvili, and Natalia Ilychova, on October 7. The state prosecution alleges that former members of the State Commission on Border Delimitation and Demarcation used maps that incorrectly marked Georgia’s borders with Azerbaijan, including the section of the Davit Gareji Monastery, to determine the border with Azerbaijan. Following the sentencing of both of them on September 8, the court remanded Natalia Ilychova and Iveri Melashvili in custody.
On January 21, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Georgia finalized the so-called cartographers’ case investigation. At the briefing, the agency released a secret video recording, which demonstrates the conversation between the arrested cartographer, Iveri Melashvili, and the former chairman of the border demarcation commission. As it turns out, the prosecutor’s office was conducting covert surveillance on Iveli Melashvili in his office before his arrest. Agency suggests that the record is dated September 28, 2020.
One of the lawyer’s of Iveri Melashvili, Giorgi Mshvenieradze, said that the Prosecutor General’s Office deliberately manipulates public opinion, presenting the case as if a discovery had been made.
“From what I have heard, most of this recording is publicly followed by Iveri Melashvili at the court hearing because he has nothing to hide. There has been nothing criminal here as there is a work conversation in the record. The prosecution presents this as if a great discovery had been made. For example, viewers who are not aware of the case may think that Georgia’s initial position in 1996 has changed in 2006. But suffice it to look at, for example, the OSCE document on border delimitation, which states that countries formulate their position on the maximum to optimal principle. Consequently, when we (Georgian side) communicated the primary positions to Azerbaijan, we had the maximum demand possible. Then an optimal agreement is reached in the work process. This is exactly what Iveri Melashvili says in the recently published recording, as well as in public. He says that we asked to be transferred not only to the territory of Chichkhituri and Easter Monastery, but also Bertubani, and so the map was drawn up accordingly. We offered this to Azerbaijan because we have a solid basis for it, but because our argument was that these monuments are the historical belonging of Georgian culture, the state and have religious value. Iveri Melashvili says this in the secret recording as well. The offer to Azerbaijan included the territory exchange, on which they responded with an explicit resistance, which is why this offer could not be implemented.”- Mshvenieradze Told the Formula News.
Furthermore, the prosecutor’s office accuses Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilychova of acting on someone’s instructions. Defendants haven’t yet been answered on who’s tasks did the cartographers fulfill, in addition to not being given access to the full recording.
Mshvenieradze added that what Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilychova are accused of today, about 75% of the territory were agreed in 1996-97. Even if we assume that the so-called newly discovered maps are suitable for use, although they aren’t, new maps became available to Iveri Melashvili only after 2000, therefore he didn’t know about 75% of the case he is charged for. At the same time, Natalia Ilychova was not a member of the State Commission on the Border Agreement with Azerbaijan in 1996-97.
The lawyer of Iveri Melashvili warns that it is a political, legal process. The delimitation between Georgia and Azerbaijan is not over yet, a large part of the population does not know that.
“What our government is doing today, hopefully foolishly, may lead to the loss of more territory for Georgia, and these threats will become even visible in the process.”- Mshvenieradze added in the interview.
The Shame Movement believes that the imprisonment of Iveri and Natalia is a shame for the country. In the run-up to the 2020 parliamentary elections, the Georgian Dream, with the help of Davit Khidasheli, who was later hailed as a hero by Bidzina Ivanishvili, launched a new propaganda campaign against the opposition and imprisoned Natalia Ilyichova and Iveri Melashvili, loyal citizens of the country. They were neither politicians, nor former high-ranking officials, nor activists, however, when the system is targeted, any of us can fall victim to it.
Those who have done nothing wrong and are forced to experience the greatest injustice on themselves. Moreover, the accusation against the cartographers is the heaviest – they are accused of betraying their homeland.
Therefore, the Shame Movement is organizing the support rally during the pre-trial hearing on the cartographers’ case on January 28 at 14:00 at the Tbilisi city court.