Mamuka Abashidze, a soldier who trained Ukrainian troops and was deported from Ukraine without a court warrant in 2017. (Abadhidze’s Facebook page).
A court has ruled that Ukraine broke the law by banning an associate of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili from entering the country.
The court ruling is a milestone in the legal fight of seven Saakashvili associates who were deported from Ukraine without court warrants in 2017.
Their deportation, as well as the expulsion of Saakashvili from Ukraine in February 2018, came amid his bitter political struggle with then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Saakashvili saw the moves as political punishment for his criticism of the Poroshenko administration.
Ukraine’s Sixth Administrative Court of Appeal recognized the Security Service of Ukraine’s entry ban on Georgian citizen Mamuka Abashidze’s entry into Ukraine as unlawful, his lawyer, Vasyl Melnychuk from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, told the Kyiv Post on Aug. 12.
Abashidze is a Georgian military specialist who had been training Ukrainian soldiers fighting in the Donbas against Russia and its proxies.
However, the court has not upheld Melnychuk’s motion to recognize the actions of the Security Service of Ukraine, the State Migration Service, the State Border Guard and the National Police in deporting Abashidze as illegal. Melnychyk and the Kharkiv Human Rights Group said they would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
In November 2017, Security Service of Ukraine officers burst into Abashidze’s Kyiv apartment, handcuffed him, and put tape over his mouth, before quietly throwing him into a mini-van and taking him to Kyiv Zhulyany Airport, where he was forced onto a State Border Guard Service helicopter and taken to Odesa, the Kharkiv Human Rights Group said.
Without going through passport control and customs, he was placed on a ferry and taken to the Georgian port of Poti, according to the group.
Melnychuk said all of this was illegal. No explanations were given as to why Abashidze was deported, and he was not given the chance to appeal any ruling, the lawyer added.
Melnychuk said Abashidze had not even been informed if such a ruling existed, and was not given the opportunity to consult a lawyer.
In 2017, seven associates of Saakashvili were deported to Georgia by Ukrainian authorities without court warrants. Some of the Georgians claimed they had been beaten. Under Ukrainian law, deportation without a court warrant is illegal.
Apart from Abashidze, the Georgians are Georgy Rubashvili, one of Saakashvili’s former security guards; Saakashvili’s friend David Makishvili, who fought against Russian-backed insurgents in the Donbas and trained Ukraine’s National Guard; Saakashvili’s former driver Mikhail Abzianidze; Tamaz Shavshishvili, a journalist for Georgia’s Rustavi 2 television station; security guard Zurab Tsintsadze and Vano Nadiradze, who also fought against Russia in the Donbas.
In 2017, then-Human Rights Ombudsman Valeria Lutkovska said that Rubashvili, Makishvili and Abzianidze had been illegally kidnapped and deported by the National Police without court warrants.
Ukrainian authorities claimed their deportation was legal, citing national security concerns and their alleged links to criminal groups. However, they failed to present documents on which their deportation was based.
In 2018, Ukrainian courts ruled that the State Migration Service’s decision to expel Abzianidze from Ukraine to Georgia had been unlawful and canceled the decision.
Later, Abzianidze’s lawyers obtained letters from the State Migration Service and State Border Guard Service saying that the entry ban had also been canceled.
Despite the court rulings, Abzianidze was not allowed to enter Ukraine last year.
Abzianidze told the Kyiv Post on Aug. 12 that he was still unable to enter Ukraine because the Security Service of Ukraine had not responded to his requests so far on whether he could enter.
Saakashvili’s lawyer, Pavlo Bogomazov, told the Kyiv Post that the other cases into what he views as the unlawful deportations had seen no progress in the Kyiv Administrative District Court.
A vehement critic of Poroshenko, Saakashvili was first stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship by the former Ukrainian president in 2017 and then deported from Ukraine in 2018. The former Georgian president’s detention and expulsion violated numerous laws, lawyers for Saakashvili and independent attorneys said. The authorities deny accusations of wrongdoing, claiming that Saakashvili’s deportation was legal.
In 2017, before his deportation, the Prosecutor General’s Office arrested and charged Saakashvili with involvement in a scheme to receive money from Serhiy Kurchenko, a fugitive tycoon closely connected to ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych, to finance protests against Poroshenko. Saakashvili called the case politically motivated and fabricated. A court later ruled that his arrest was unlawful, and he was released.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Kostyantyn Kulik, who was in charge of the case, told the Kyiv Post that Poroshenko had interfered in the Saakashvili case and tried to order prosecutors to investigate and arrest certain Saakashvili allies. Poroshenko’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.
On May 28, President Volodymyr Zelensky restored Saakashvili’s Ukrainian citizenship and he returned to Ukraine.