Tbilisi protested the move as an insult to sovereignty
The State Department has placed four Georgian judges on a visa blacklist, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Wednesday, accusing them of “involvement in significant corruption.”
Mikheil Chinchaladze, Levan Murusidze, Irakli Shengelia, and Valerian Tsertsvadze “abused their positions as court Chairmen and members of Georgia’s High Council of Justice, undermining the rule of law and the public’s faith in Georgia’s judicial system,” Blinken said in a statement.
The US “continues to stand with all Georgians in support of democracy and the rule of law and will continue to promote accountability for those who abuse public power for personal gain. We stand with all judges who have the integrity and courage to act impartially and independently,” Blinken added.
The four judges in question have been on the bench since the presidency of US-backed revolutionary Mikhail Saakashvili, who was ousted by the current government in 2012.
Murusidze, who holds a lifetime appointment on the Georgian Court of Appeals, called Blinken’s announcement an “attempt to subordinate the Georgian courts and Georgian justice system to the US,” according to the Interfax news agency.
Irakly Kobakhidze, the chairman of the ruling Georgia Dream party, also condemned the announcement as an offense against his country’s sovereignty.
“The US doesn’t think we’re a country,” Kobakhidze told the local TV channel Imedi. He vowed to protect Georgian interests at any cost and “show everyone we’re an independent state,” promising that he will not allow the country’s justice system to be “harmed by any unjust actions.”
The ruling party has yet to consider a response to the US sanctions, however.
Tbilisi faced a week-long riot last month over a proposed law on foreign agent registration, which the US embassy denounced as a threat to democracy. The State Department threatened sanctions against Georgia if the proposal was adopted, and thousands of opposition activists besieged the parliament for days until the lawmakers were intimidated into withdrawing the bill.