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The tape implicating the President is genuine

By Liana Bezhanishvili
Tuesday, April 27
A recorded phone conversation which implies that President Saakashvili was behind the fake Imedi TV broadcast which said that the Russians were invading is genuine, says London-based business intelligence and corporate investigations firm GPW which has examined the recording. The firm says however that some parts of the conversation may have been deleted.

GPW was commissioned to ascertain the veracity of the conversation between Imedi TV’s Managing Director Giorgi Arveladze and his deputy Eka Tsamalashvili by Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Rights Party, which is part of the Alliance for Georgia. The recording of conversation, which supposedly took place before the fake report aired, was posted on a Russian-language website on March 15, two days after the report was broadcast. Both Arveladze and Tsamalashvili had previously acknowledged that it is their voices which can be heard in the recording but claimed that the tape itself was a fabrication. Both said that the recording was a montage of several separate conversations made simply to implicate President Saakashvili in making the fake report. Arveladze said that it was made by the Russian special services at a sensitive political period to fuel anti-Government sentiments. Lawmakers from the ruling party took the same position, rejecting calls for a Parliamentary probe.

GPW's report on the tape, which was presented by Alliance for Georgia on April 26, says that Isabel Picornell, a certified fraud examiner, and Donald Rayfield, Professor Emeritus of Russian and Georgian Studies at Queen Mary College in London had been hired to make a forensic linguistic examination of the tape. “Picornell and Rayfield have concluded that the conversation is genuine. The overall lexical linking is consistent with a single conversation and both experts have discounted claims that the recording is a montage,” the report reads. It also concludes however that there are some inconsistencies in the recorded conversation suggesting that it may have been tampered with. “These inconsistencies may point to a deletion of parts of the recording, but there is no evidence of insertions or additions,” it says. The experts noted that “the inconsistencies all occur during the part of the conversation where Mikheil Saakashvili is referenced.”

In the conversation Arveladze mentions “Misha” – a short form of the name Mikheil, and the name by which President Saakashvili is usually referred to - twice. He tells his interlocutor that “Misha” wants the fake report to be aired without any warning to viewers. Arveladze brings up “Misha” after his deputy Tsamalashvili warns her boss that airing the fake report without a warning would be a violation of the law on broadcasting. “Both Picornell and Rayfield believe that the conversation is genuine, although inconsistencies might point to interferences with the recording. However, as Rayfield has stated, even these inconsistencies can be explained without compromising the integrity of the recording,” the report says.

The report focuses on the forensic linguistic examination of the recording rather than on its technical aspects. It does however say that experts from London-based firm BSB Forensics have also examined the technical content of the recording, in which each speaker is recorded on a separate channel. “This and other technical factors strongly indicate that the recording was an intercept made at a main exchange,” the report reads without giving details of these “other technical factors”.

During the presentation of the GPW report leaders of the Alliance for Georgia told reporters that the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office should launch an investigation into the case. Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Republican Party, also part of the Alliance for Georgia, said that Arveladze had violated number of clauses of the criminal code, in particular by obstructing the professional activities of a journalist, obstructing entrepreneurship and undertaking illegal entrepreneurship. Usupashvili claimed that Arveladze, despite knowing that airing the fake report without warning captions would be a violation of the law and would harm Imedi TV insisted on doing that. He also said that President Saakashvili had violated the Constitution through his involvement in this affair, specifically the clause which states that “interference in the creative process and censorship in the field of creative activity shall be impermissible” and the clause stating that “the mass media shall be free and censorship of it shall be impermissible.”

“We should take responsibility and initiative concrete legal action to bring this case to an end,” said Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia, who is running for Tbilisi Mayor. “This fake broadcast traumatised the public, it created psychological trauma… Taking action and bringing this case to its conclusion is a matter of national dignity,” he said.