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Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Resigns Amid Surveillance Scandal

Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Kakhaber Sabanadze announced his resignation on Facebook on March 23.
Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Kakhaber Sabanadze announced his resignation on Facebook on March 23.

TBILISI -- Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Kakhaber Sabanadze has resigned amid media reports he ordered the intentional disruption of a gathering of opposition groups and used illegal surveillance to keep track of some politicians.

Sabanadze announced his decision to step down from the post on March 23 after the Mtavari Arkhi and TV Pirveli television channels published an interview over the weekend with an ex-employee of the State Security Service, Vano Gulashvili, who claimed that a meeting of opposition groups in 2019 in Tbilisi had been disrupted on Sabanadze's orders.

"The allegations must be studied and an unbiased and comprehensive investigation must be conducted to find the truth. Therefore, I am stepping down to secure a fair investigation. I am confident that my decision will be an example for other officials to act in line with high standards of responsibility," Sabanadze wrote. He did not comment directly on the allegations.

The television channels said Gulashvili was interviewed by Mtavari Arkhi in November 2019, after which he was arrested on a charge of disclosing classified data. He is currently being held in detention.

Gulashvili said in the interview that he was following orders handed down by Sabanadze and other Interior Ministry officials in 2014, and that he installed surveillance cameras in the house of former Deputy Defense Minister Ana Dolidze and malware on the laptop of Georgian Muslim leader Vagif Askerov to record his personal life.

The Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office said earlier in the day that it had launched a probe into the information provided by Gulashvili.

Dolidze, who is currently the leader of the Movement for the People political group, told RFE/RL on March 23 that she wants a probe launched into how surveillance cameras were installed in her house to determine why they were there, who exactly ordered the surveillance operation, and whether the materials obtained from the cameras were destroyed.

Dolidze added that she wants the Public Defender’s office to be involved in the probe to ensure the rights of Gulashvili are respected during the investigation.

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