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TSU Rector resigns amidst book theft scandal

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, August 16
Rector of Tbilisi State University (TSU) Gia Khubua made a statement concerning his resignation last Friday, August 13. Members of the TSU Academic Council chaired by Khubua, had to make a decision about the rector’s statement, but claimed they had not been informed about the schedule of the special meeting beforehand. TSU Professor Guguli Maghradze said she hadn’t heard about the possible resignation of the rector but commented that it was up to Khubua to decide. The Professor denounced slanderous accusations against the TSU head which she said would harm the country.

Nevertheless the Academic Council accepted the rector’s appeal unanimously. “Khubua wanted to resign and asked the council to accept his appeal claiming he would like to spend more time on scientific activities,” Pridon Todua, council member told the media. According to information released by the media in previous weeks, Gia Khubua was accused of being involved in the theft of books from the university library; however on August 9 the rector presented documentation proving his innocence.

Also last Friday, members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) arrested Tamar Nemsitsveridze, Director of the TSU library who appeared to have been keeping 92 stolen books with National Library stamps, in violation of her responsibilities. It’s interesting to note that Nemsitsveridze was not acting alone but worked with a team, the members of which – Tamaz Nikolaishvili, former library supervisor and Merab Chelidze, vice-president of aviation association (who was previously charged for bribery) – have also been detained for theft. According to information released by the investigators, Chelidze was being helped by two other suspects – Vazha Azariashvili and Zurab Agdgomelashvili, to export stolen books from Tbilisi Airport via Ukraine. The last batch of books was seized by Ukrainian customs officials. Books dating from XVIII to XIX centuries were found in the State Library of Ukrainian History and negotiations for the possible return of the books have already begun. For now all the detainees are keeping silent, but they have been given preliminary jail terms of 2 months; if found guilty of the crimes they may be sentenced to several years.

“It is not true that Khubua has left his post because of the stolen books. There have been such cases at the university previously but no-one has ever resigned or been detained for that. I think that Khubua had much more important reasons to resign which are unknown to the public. The only thing we are aware of is that Khubua did everything he could, so now Saakashvili has put his eyes on someone else,” academic Tengiz Sanadze said in an interview with Rezonansi. Professor Jemal Mebonia holds a different view, “Resignation is all right but even he may be detained…The whole scandal started with the book theft but I can’t really say whether this was the reason for Khubua’s resignation or something else. Not only the books but the whole University has been lost. It is a major disaster – the university has been destroyed and although I don’t want to say something wrong about a “fallen” man, Khubua was the instrument for doing the “dirty job” and was finally made leave TSU over probably false accusations,” the Professor stated.

Despite the different opinions regarding Khubua’s resignation, TSU Academic Council is now discussing possible candidates for the post of the university rector which will presumably be elected in a week’s time.