Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Caucasus Report

Senior U.S. Official Warns Against Creating Perception Of 'Selective Justice' in Georgia

The arrest of Georgia's former Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia (center) has given rise to speculation that a campaign is being waged against Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's political adversaries.
The arrest of Georgia's former Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia (center) has given rise to speculation that a campaign is being waged against Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's political adversaries.
Following the arrest of former Georgian Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia, who has since been charged with exceeding his authority, wrongful detention, and torture, and of a dozen senior Interior Ministry officials, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon has stressed to Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili the need to avoid creating the impression that the ongoing investigation of alleged abuses selectively and unfairly targets Ivanishvili’s political adversaries.

Lawmakers from President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (ENM), which Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition defeated in last month’s parliamentary ballot, complained two weeks ago to foreign diplomats in Tbilisi that the arrest of Akhalaia and two senior army commanders and a tax investigation launched at the Georgian Public Broadcaster were politically motivated.

Meeting with Ivanishvili in Tbilisi on November 16, Gordon acknowledged that “everybody wants to see rule of law implemented and anybody who has committed a crime to be held accountable. But at the same time it is essential to avoid any perception or reality of selective prosecutions....In that context it is absolutely critical to be scrupulous in both the reality and perception of how this process is working. If it looks like or it is designed solely to go after political adversaries or it’s not done in a transparent way, then the whole country will pay the price.”

Ivanishvili said it was understandable that the arrests have raised “many question marks.” He said his government will continue its efforts to make it clear to Georgia’s Western partners that “each and every action undertaken by us in this regard is in compliance with democracy, and is not in any way a political persecution or selective justice.”

Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, for her part, told journalists the same day that “what is happening today is not political persecution. What is happening is an investigation into who committed a crime and who suffered from it.”

“Having held a senior position in the past does not of itself bestow immunity [from prosecution],” she added.

Also on November 16, Georgian Prosecutor-General Archil Kbilashvili made public the charges brought against former Deputy Interior Minister Shota Khizanishvili and 10 other Interior Ministry officials, including the head of the Department of Constitutional Security, Levan Kardava. The case centers on illegal phone tapping and surveillance through malware software of known opponents of the former Georgian opposition.

Persons and organizations targeted for such surveillance include former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze, and Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition, Kbilashvili said.

The Russian daily “Kommersant” made the point on November 19 that Khizanishvili and Kardava are unlikely to have acted without the knowledge and explicit approval of their boss, Vano Merabishvili, who headed the Interior Ministry from December 2004 to June 2012.

Merabishvili has long been regarded as the eminence grise behind Saakashvili, who tasked him in the wake of the ENM’s election defeat with revamping the party in order to “return to power.”  Merabishvili said on November 16 that the arrest of Khizanishvili, whom he described as a close friend, was intended to exert pressure on him personally, but it “will not scare us.”

As yet unclear is whether President Saakashvili was aware of the illegal computer and phone tapping allegedly undertaken by the Interior Ministry. The Russian daily “Gazeta” quoted Kbilashvili as saying last week that one of the men arrested “indirectly mentioned” President Saakashvili’s name while being interrogated. The prosecutor-general did not elaborate.

The Georgian Constitution makes provision for the impeachment of the president in the event that the Constitutional Court rules at the request of no fewer than one third of parliament deputies that he has violated the constitution, or the Supreme Court rules that he is guilty of treason or some other serious crime.

Ivanishvili, however, told the Austrian daily “Die Presse” that he does not want to see Saakashvili impeached as it would look like “political revenge.” At the same time, Ivanishvili said he cannot prevent justice from taking its course. Moreover, Justice Minister Tsulukiani has said “we must find a way of coexisting with Mikheil Saakashvili until the presidential election takes place” in October 2013.
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Comment Sorting
by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
November 20, 2012 13:50
Aah,how can you cricize the poor st.georgians,their civilization is the oldest in the world dating back10 millenia ago as Konstantin has proved us all so aptly-you should learn from them,David-how about putting Matt Romney and all republicans in jail where they belong!!! Poor old Bacho,however should have his necktie back!!!

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 20, 2012 16:25
The article says: "absolutely critical to be scrupulous in both the REALITY and PERCEPTION of how this process is working" :-).
Well, as far as the perception is concerned, the RFE/RL will for sure take good care of it - the way they always do :-).
May I just say a few words on the reality please :-)? I guess, the reality is clear to anyone who can read: the pro-US govt of Mischa is on its way out. Its members are being imprisoned one after the other - the same way as the govt of Yanoukowitsch in Ukraine imprisoned the previous pro-US govt of the country after he had taken over the country about 2,5 years ago.
Some readers (like Andrew from Auckland) would really like to pretend that Russia is not the one who stands behind the moves by the new govt of Iwanischwili. BUT - as the article above clearly indicates - it is primarily THE RUSSIAN MEDIA (the mentioned articles by the "Kommersant" and "Gazeta") that gives the spin to this "arresting" campaign and apparently even has DIRECT ACCESS TO THOSE GEORGIAN OFFICIALS who seem to implicate some major figures of the outgoing pro-US Georgian administration (Mischa himself and Merabischwili) in all sorts of crimes.
I mean, why is it that the Russian media has access to those officials and why is it that those Georgian officials do not appear to have any problem publicly accusing their countrymen in crimes IN FRONT OF THE RUSSIAN MEDIA? What do you think, Andrew from Auckland :-))?
And then, of course, Iwanischwili follows the path that Yanoukowitsch embarked upon in the first year of his govt: while imprisoning his pro-US predecessors, he did his best to present a "US- and EU-friendly" face and gave interviews to some Western media (similar to the "Die Presse" interview of Iwanischwili mentioned in the article) in which he says that he just lets the "justice do its work" and nothing else. I mean, sounds familiar, doesn't it :-)?
So, that's what Yanoukowitsch has been doing for the last 2 years in Ukraine and today:
(a) Julia and some of her friends are on a hunger strike in jail;
(b) Frau Merkel boycots sprorting events organized in Ukraine;
(c) Yanoukowitsch meets with Putin many times per year in order to discuss all sorts of joint projects, as a result of which the relations between UA and RU have improved tremendously, whereas those between UA and the EU have deteriorated significantly.
So, my prediction is that the same thing is HIGHLY LIKELY to happen to the Georgian-Russian and Georgia-EU relations once the Iwanischwili team consolidates its power and removes Mischa to where Julia is waiting for him.
Well, and after all, why should neignbours - GE and RU in this specific case - continue those senseless quarrels? The only one who benefits from those is the UNCLE SAM - and that's the guy that no one needs, 'cos he's just good for nothing.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
November 20, 2012 17:43
Well,we all thought the change of sex would do Eugenio/Eugenia some good.but alas,even jack cannot satisfy his/her prodigious sexual appetite!!!What comes out of all this is explained in good old Ziggy Freud`s theory of sexual frustrations.So I suggest we send the Vienna thing to Tatarstan where,we all hope it shall find some happiness in the local turkish bath!!!
In Response

by: Rasto from: ,,,,,
November 21, 2012 15:04
Few mistakes,
1. Russian Kommersant as well as other Russian media such as RT (or not precisely russian) Kavkaz Uzel have always had access to what is happenning in Georgia without having information directly provided by Georgian officials a) either by following of plethora local media or b) by their informants.
2. I do not think that there is any prove that Ivanishvili is after a US allies as these who has been jailed so far are predominantly responsible for wrongdoing anyway. Bacho Akhalaia is according some an indisputable case. Some say that he has been involved in torturing prisoners way before he became Minsitry of Interior, i.e when he was in charge of prisons in Zugdidi. "clever" guys - like Shashkin who is currently enjoying his 800 000 USD stolen from governmental treasury in the US are already abroad. It is clear that Ivanishvili is catching smaller fish first to see how much up he can afford to go.
I think that there is a very different case between jailing Ms.Tymoshenko and jailing some Georgian officials. There are still many skeletons in wardrobes around and public were slightly dissapointed that not that many were discovered yet - particularly the big ones such as death or murder of Zurab Zhvania.
Taking into account that staunch pro-western orientated Irakli Alasania is vice-premier I would be very careful making fast conclusions about management from Russia...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 22, 2012 11:23
Hello, Rasto, thanks for the interesting info!
You are mentioning the case of Zurab Zhvania - and it would really be interesting to get to know what actually happened to him back then in 2004, I think. What are the most plausible rumors in Georgia concerning the real reasons for and the forces behind his elimination?
And then, you are saying that the presence in the "Georgian Dream" team of "pro-western orientated Irakli Alasania as vice-premier" is an indicator of something. If I am not mistaken, Alassania was one of those politicians who joined Iwanischwili already AFTER the latter announced his intention to participate in the elections. So, as a matter of fact, his link to Iwanischwili is somewhat similar to the link that used to exist between Saakaschwili and Nino Burdzhanadze: i.e. two different people who joined forces to achieve specific policy goals AT ONE POINT IN TIME, and then - as the political situation changed - they just went two separate roads. (I mean, the case of Julia Timoschenko and Victor Yushchenko in UA is another similar one).
So, I would argue that even if Alassania does not have anything to do with the Russians, it does not mean that the same applies to Iwan.
In Response

by: Kodjo Koffi from: Africa Section of Tbilisi
November 22, 2012 12:13
I think that Ratso was responsible for ZZ's death

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 21, 2012 12:04
By the way, here is another interesting article in English on how the "Georgian Dream" is kind of already starting to follow the same path as that of the govt Yanouk. in Ukraine since 2010. Specifically, the new Deputy Minister of Culture of Georgia Yuri Metchitov "declared that Georgia should change the name of the Museum of the Soviet Occupation, opened in Tbilisi in 2006". Just to remind you, the govt of Yan. in Ukraine also started implementing a new cultural policy about two years ago by dismatling the "Museum of National Memory", as I think it was called. The Ukrainian Museum was also created in about 2006 and had focused on the "Soviet genocide against the people of Ukraine".
The article can be found here: http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=40136&tx_ttnews[backPid]=27&cHash=dc93d8183715903b2b725dd1871b92da

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.