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Bitsadze resigns, the missing thirty-five explain

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Thursday, October 30
Shortly after the Temporary Parliamentary Commission studying the August war released the names of high-ranking Georgian officials and lawmakers who had crossed the national border between August 7 and 14, Head of the Border Police Badri Bitsadze made the official announcement of his resignation. Bitsadze maintained that a smear campaign had been carried out against him because he is the husband of former Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze now in opposition.

“I do not want to link all these developments to the former Parliamentary Speaker’s political activities, but unfortunately, recent events indicate that this ids their cause,” Bitsadze said at his press briefing on October 29. “I also want to state that there has not been any direct demand or any pressure put on me to resign,” he added.

About two weeks ago Bitsadze spoke to The Messenger about the Government’s repression. Then he assured the public that the arrest of members of the Border Police on suspicion of corruption was a set-up directed against him personally. He also said he was dissatisfied with next year’s budget cut for his department, which saw its funding decreased to GEL 49.5 million as against GEL 80 million in 2008.

Prior to Bitsadze’s announcement the head of the Temporary Parliamentary Commission studying the August war, Paata Davitaia, had said that 35 officials and lawmakers crossed the Georgian border during the war. He stated that each of these people would be questioned by the Commission in the same format in which others had been questioned in previous days and the Commission will ask why they left the country. Davitaia suggested that many of them had gone abroad on official visits.

“We will listen to them with pleasure and ascertain why they crossed the border. If they were on a mission we will demand that they produce official documents confirming that mission. 80% of the people on this list left the country before August 7 and returned during the war,” Davitaia said.

After the release of the list of thirty-five names, most of whom are MPs, some of those mentioned made comments about their disappearance from Georgia. Speaker of Parliament David Bakradze said that August is a non-Parliamentary month and he went out of the country on a private visit. Bakradze explained that as soon as he heard about the situation in Georgia he returned on the night of August 8. Opposition leader Giorgi Targamadze, Givi Targamadze the Chair of the Defence and Security Committee and his deputy Nika Rurua are also on the list. Rurua has claimed in an interview with Rezonansi that he entered Georgia on August 8 or 9, but does not recall exactly which. “I ask whoever reports this information to understand well whether I crossed the border to leave or actually entered Georgian territory,” Rurua said.

Gigi Tsereteli, an MP from the ruling party, has confirmed that he crossed the border on August 7 and went to Turkey for a holiday, but says that as soon as he heard what was happening in Georgia he came back the next day. “I flew on the morning of August 7. Then we did not have any information that something serious was happening. The next day I heard all about it and immediately came back from Turkey,” Tsereteli said, adding that there were other lawmakers and officials on the same flight.

The questioning of the thirty-five people who left the country is expected to start in the next few days.