US Department of State Report Includes Mukhtarli, Cabuk Cases

The high-profile cases of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, allegedly kidnapped in Tbilisi and transferred to Baku, and the trials of the Turkish national and Demirel College Manager, Mustafa Emre Cabuk, who spent nine months in Georgian prison on charges of having links to the organization FETO, have been mentioned in the latest 2017 Country Report on Human Rights Practices of the US Department of State.

“Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli accused government officials in May of kidnapping him in Tbilisi and facilitating his rendition to Azerbaijan,” the report reads, adding that in July, 2017, the Government of Georgia denied asylum to a Turkish citizen, Mustafa Emre Cabuk, and his family.

“In May the government detained him due to the Turkish government’s extradition request which accused him of being a member of a terrorist organization,” the US Department of State stated.

The document also notes that the Georgian Public Defender’s Office, local and international NGOs, and international organizations raised concerns about the potential extradition of Cabuk and his family to Turkey, where they warned he and his family would likely face persecution and torture.

“Cabuk appealed the government’s denial of asylum and his extended pre-extradition detention. The government provided his family with witness protection due to threats of violence. In November, Tbilisi City Court ruled in favor of the government and denied Cabuk’s asylum request, and separately extended Cabuk’s pre-extradition detention until February 2018," the report reads. 

Moreover, the report says the Georgian government and court violated former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili’s rights during his pretrial detention in 2013.

"In September 2016, the former head of the Constitutional Security Department, Davit Akhalaia, and three former officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were charged in connection with the violent dispersal of a protest in 2011 that was allegedly ordered by the then-Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, who remains in prison," the report reads. 

The US Department of State says that on November 28, the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) Grand Chamber ruled that the government and court had violated former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili’s rights during his pretrial detention in 2013 but that the initial decision to detain him had not violated the ECHR standards. 

"This ruling was consistent with the ECHR judgment of June 2016. The court ordered the government to pay 4,000 EUR in damages," the report reads. 

However, the Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze, says the report, on the whole, is positive.

"The report of the State Department reflects the progress in many directions in terms of democracy and human rights in Georgia. It is important for us to cooperate with our strategic partner in this direction. Since the restoration of independence, the United States has been supporting Georgia in terms of strengthening the democratic institutions. Of course, we pay great attention to their views. As for certain objections, we'll take them into consideration,” Janelidze said.

By Thea Morrison

23 April 2018 12:05