The Court granted the Evangelical Church’s only prayer house to be seized
With its November 20, 2023 decision, the Supreme Court of Georgia found the appeal of the Pastor of the Evangelical Church of Georgia, Zaal Tkeshelashvili, inadmissible, thus leaving into force the Tbilisi Court of Appeal’s unjust judgment. The Evangelical Church and its members are facing their only prayer house to be seized, built with the huge efforts of the Church members within the span of several years.
On 9 November 2022, the Tbilisi Court of Appeals ordered the Pastor to pay the plaintiff, a U.S. citizen, Byung Chan Park, the Church donations received over several years. These donations were intended to complete the construction of the Evangelical Church’s first and only prayer house.
The case against the Church is entirely based on the plaintiff’s deceitful actions and the falsified documents he presented to the court. It is alarming that the justice and investigative institutions not only ignored the existence of alleged crime and falsification of documents, but the Georgian justice system relied on these documents to deliver the judgment against the Church and its pastor.
The plaintiff against the Evangelical Church is a U.S. citizen, Byung Chan Park, who, years ago, introduced himself to the Church members and the Pastor as an evangelical missionary. After a thorough study and analysis of the case files, there is reasonable ground to believe that the plaintiff had acted maliciously, manipulating religious communities for his shady financial and business activities.
Byung Chan Park presented copies of falsified agreement documents to the court (he could not present the originals of these documents), which had a U.S. notary stamp on them. The “agreements” have no signatures, a notarial act, date of signature and notarization, or any other characteristics that could indicate the lawfulness of the content and notarization of the agreements. Even Park’s full name is miswritten. Moreover, Park’s passport number indicated in these documents is the number of the passport issued a year later than the date he claims the agreement was concluded. The Evangelical Church applied to the Georgian law enforcement agencies to investigate the alleged falsification of the documents in 2019. The investigation has not conducted the essential investigative procedures; hence, it has no outcomes until now.
For several years, Byung Chan Park collected donations from Christian believers in various countries in the name of the Evangelical Church of Georgia. It is unknown how much money he accumulated by using the name of the Evangelical Church. In 2019, Park filed a lawsuit against Pastor Zaal Tkeshelashvilli in the Tbilisi City Court, requiring the defendant to pay back the church donations contributed to the construction of the Evangelical Church’s prayer house.
The City Court did not grant any of Byung Chan Park’s four claims. However, the plaintiff appealed this decision in the Tbilisi Court of Appeals, which, in its 9 November 2022 decision, partially changed the decision of the Tbilisi City Court and ordered the defendant Zaal Tkeshelashvili to pay over USD 90,000 to the plaintiff Park. Pastor Zaal Tkeshelashvili appealed the judgment to the Supreme Court of Georgia. With its 20 November 2023 decision, the Supreme Court found the appeal inadmissible. The result of the Supreme Court’s decision will be the execution of the Appeal Court's unjust and ill-founded judgment, leaving the Evangelical Church and its members without the prayer house.
The evangelical Church of Georgia and its pastors, Zaal and Nino Tkeshelashvili, have always been outspoken against injustices, advocating for the protection of freedom of religion and belief, equality, and democratic principles in Georgia. Many circumstances indicate that this is an attempt, disguised in the questionable civil lawsuit, to ruin the Pastor’s reputation, to silence his voice about justice and equality, to take away the Evangelical Church’s only property - its prayer house, to abolish the Church’s autonomy and its existence as an independent church.
The Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) continues to provide legal support to the Evangelical Church of Georgia and its members and will use all civil, criminal, and human rights legal mechanisms to protect the fundamental rights of the Evangelical Church members.
See the detailed report prepared by TDI on the case against the Evangelical Church of Georgia in the link.