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Dirty Trick: Georgian Politician's Sex-File Prank Targets 'Inbox Law'


Zurab Japaridze (second from right) in Tbilisi last year.

Zurab Japaridze, an offbeat Georgian lawmaker and head of the liberal Pine Cone (Girchi) party, wanted to make a point. So he distributed a sex tape.

In fact, sex tapes were his point.

Japaridze picked five deputies because of their statements about the need for strict punishment of individuals whose sole crime was receiving a private sex tape. And he sent them a digital video recording from a fake e-mail account.

His aim was to shoot holes in recent amendments that have made obtaining and/or spreading recordings of others' private lives a crime punishable by up to eight years in prison.

"It is madness to prosecute people based on viewing something that has been placed in the public space, and the Internet is indeed public space," Japaridze said in a February 28 Facebook video revealing his NSFW prank.

The use of sex espionage is a well-honed trick dating back at least to the Soviet era.

More recently, such tactics have been used in Russia and Azerbaijan.

In Georgia, former President Mikheil Saakashvili's administration -- which ruled between 2004 and 2012 -- was accused several times of building up a massive collection of compromising videos featuring members of the opposition, 181 hours of which was publicly destroyed, though many worry hundreds of hours more still exist.

Georgia's political landscape was shaken again in early 2016 when, months before parliamentary elections in the Caucasus state of nearly 4 million, a video emerged purporting to show a politician having sex with a man who was not her husband. That was followed by a video threatening to do the same to other politicians and a journalist unless they resigned.

In February, Archil Talakvadze, Sopho Kiladze, Vano Zardiashvili, David Matikashvili, and Dimitri Khundadze all received Japaridze's e-mail -- which contained an attachment with video featuring Italian porn star Cicciolina.

Davit Matikashvili
Davit Matikashvili


Reports say Matikashvili was the only lawmaker to open the attachment, and he says he did so together with police he'd summoned after receiving the e-mail on February 26.

"I can confirm I opened it. However, the police cybercrime unit was present during the opening," he told the news website tabula.ge.

The Interior Ministry refused to comment on the video, its contents, or details of the case when contacted by RFE/RL.

Japaridze, who made headlines when he ran campaign ads on the adult video-sharing website Pornhub during his run for the presidency last year, says the new law overreaches, allowing sex files to be used not only as a weapon against those who are on the tapes but also against those who happen to receive such files.

Earlier this month, 16 people were arrested for receiving, saving, or forwarding a private video of legislator Eka Beselia through social networks and mobile applications.

Eka Beselia
Eka Beselia


Beselia, a member of the ruling Georgian Dream party, became the target of what she called a "moral terror" campaign after video of her personal life, apparently taken without her knowledge, was released.

One of the accused said they received the file of Beselia and opened it briefly but neither fully downloaded it nor saw its contents. A second said that after receiving the e-mail she forwarded it to two friends.

Three of the 16 remain in pretrial detention, while the others are free on bail as they await a court investigation.

Questions have arisen as to why these 16 people were arrested even though the videos in question were received by many others as well.

Japaridze and others have pointed out that most of the 16 are young activists or opposition supporters, including of Girchi in some cases.

"Nobody is required to recognize politicians, and if they view some pornographic materials, they should not be required to identify that politicians are involved and then go, 'Ah, so this is a politician. I guess I should call the police,'" Japaridze said.

"No one should be required to call the police because of that."

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