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Georgia: Court backs government official in police entrapment human rights dispute

Criminal proceedings against a government official over a bribe, were not fair as the domestic courts did not respond to his allegation of entrapment.

That is the view of Strasbourg judges who today held that Georgia was to pay Eldar Tchokhonelidze 2,500 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage, as just satisfaction (Article 14) following the breach of human rights law.

In the Chamber judgment in the case of Tchokhonelidze v. Georgia (application no. 31536/07) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the alleged police entrapment of a senior regional Government official.

Following an undercover police operation, he was convicted of requesting a bribe in exchange for his help in obtaining a building permit. In the criminal proceedings against him he unsuccessfully alleged that he had been incited into committing the offence.

The court noted in particular that the prosecuting authorities had not made any argument to refute Tchokhonelidze’s arguable complaint of police entrapment.

Nor had the courts then provided any reasons why his well-founded allegations should be dismissed. Placing those two shortcomings in the context of the lack of a legislative framework for mounting undercover operations in Georgia, the court concluded that the criminal proceedings against Tchokhonelidze had not been fair.

The applicant, Eldar Tchokhonelidze, is a Georgian national who was born in 1956 and lives in the village of Tsereteli (Marneuli Region, Georgia).

Tchokhonelidze, Deputy Governor of the Marneuli Region, was found guilty in July 2006 of requesting a bribe in exchange for his help in obtaining a permit to build a petrol station. He was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, but granted early release in November 2008.

His conviction was the result of an undercover operation after Ms K., the person applying for the construction permit, reported to the police that the deputy governor had requested a 30,000 US dollar bribe from her for the permit.

The police requested a court order to film their ensuing meetings and tap their telephone conversations. Tchokhonelidze was finally arrested in December 2005 when Ms K. handed over the money in pre-marked banknotes.

Throughout his trial and appeal Tchokhonelidze complained that he had been entrapped by Ms K., alleging that she was a paid undercover agent, and requested the courts to summon an additional witness, another undercover agent.

 

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