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The lack of freedom of the Georgian word16.01.2012 | 15:39
The Georgian media calls for help again. Lazo Lazareishvili journalist, having moved to Azerbaijan, appealed to the president with a request for political asylum. Once Lazo dug a little deeper than he should, and his life in Georgia has turned into a series of constant harassment and threats. This is not the first time when representatives of the media are fleeing the country. Usually, they seek refuge in Russia. Will Lazareishvili achieve his aims, given warm relations between Tbilisi and Baku?
So far, the most notorious escape from Georgia was the escape of the owner of the holding Georgian Times (do not confuse with GTimes) Malkhaz Gulashvili. His newspaper was very yellow edition, published in English, but it was very popular. After coming to power of Mikhail Saakashvili, the edition took opposition direction, and Gulashvili and his family were harassed. We'll return to Gulashvili, and now tell you about Lazo Lazareishvili. His name, as opposed to the owner of the eminent holding, is not very well known to the public. In 2007, Lazareishvili published a newspaper "Metro", as he said - "for active reading public of Tbilisi". In the same year the publication was closed, and the editor got the problems. It's been four years since the newspaper ceased to exist, but these problems do not end there.
At the time, "Metro" could become a famous edition; Lazareishvili was doing well, as he told GTimes. The publication even cooperated with the government, for example, the Ministry of Finance. But then the journalists dug too deep - to the inner sanctum of the Georgian regime, the judicial system. "Metro" has conducted its own investigation and found about 30 criminal cases against independent arbitrators and lawyers involved in the consideration of economic disputes. This is one of the darker sides of the Georgian justice. In accordance with applicable law, the independent arbitrators can examine economic disputes. But the power is there where the economy and politics are. In short, these arbitrators are often persecuted, if they try to be too independent. And Lazareishvili's newspaper has dug thirty of such episodes, when the arbitrators themselves are under investigation as a result of "wrong" decisions. Publication of this investigation ruined peaceful life of the journalist and lawyer, who was engaged in arbitration and that is called, knew the issue from inside.
Soon Lazo found himself under investigation. One of the sides of the trial, unhappy with his decision, filed a complaint to the prosecutor's office immediately. Those instituted proceedings against Lazareishvili under "abuse of authority". The lawyers in Georgia are in plight. If they're in the doghouse, then they immediately get to prison. The same thing happened with Lazareishvili. Nine months before the trial he spent in prison. The Court, of course, found him guilty but released him from prison and appointed the term, which he had already served. Another journalist payed three thousand dollars as a fine.
Freed in 2010, Lazo decided to continue fighting for the truth. But not from the Georgian justice but from the international court. He filed two complaints to the European Court of Human Rights - for the illegal arrest and the sentence itself. Both lawsuits were taken in production. But the journalist's desire to seek justice in the ECHR led to pressure on him.
"I was constantly pursued by unknown men who warned me that if you do not revoke a complaint, it would be worse for. They say they are from the police. I appealed to the General Inspectorate of Ministry of Interior, but 15 minutes later these people reappeared with threats", Lazareishvili said.
As a result Lazareishvili had to leave Georgia. As soon as he had found himself at the territory of Azerbaijan he sent a request for political asylum to President Ilham Aliyev. "I have not received any replies from the Azerbaijani authorities yet. I continue to wait and hope that I will get shelter here", Lazareishvili said in an interview to GTimes. The Georgian Embassy in Azerbaijan said they did not know a man named Lazo Lazareishvili. "What can I say. It was an employee of the embassy, who does not know me", Lazareishvili said.
The journalist held his press conference in Baku Institute of Reporters Freedom and Safety. Co-founder of the Institute, well-known in Azerbaijan journalist Idrac Abbasov doubts that Lazareishvili will get political asylum. But, according to Abbasov, there's nothing for him to be afraid of.
"I do not think that the Azerbaijani authorities will give him asylum. On the contrary, there are instances when they sent the people back, for example, to Russia. And if the Georgian authorities will demand Lazo, Azerbaijan will give him up. But it seems that the Georgian authorities do not need Lazareishvili very much and it he will just stay here without any problems for himself. I even suggest that the authorities won't answer him", Idrac Abbasov said in an interview to GTimes.