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Ivanishvili Legal Team: Saakashvili Abused Presidential Authority

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, December 7
“Bidzina Ivanishvili faces no legal obstacles to stay in the country,” the group of lawyers protecting the businessmen’s rights said at a press conference on Tuesday. Accusing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of overstepping his authority in depriving Ivanishvili and his wife of Georgian citizenship, the lawyers Eka Beselia, Zakaria Kutsnashvili, Shalva Tadumadze, Archil Kbilashvili and Alexander Baramidze spoke of the motives behind the president’s “anti-constitutional act.” Having filed a lawsuit for annulling Saakashvili’s decision, lawyer Shalva Tadumadze explained that the person making such decisions should be absolutely impartial “while the president acted in the framework of his personal and political interests” trying to get rid of a political opponent.

Lawyer Zakaria Kutsnashvili told The Messenger that after the collapse of the Soviet Union each person received the citizenship of the country where they lived at that particular moment. As Ivanishvili lived in Russia, he automatically became a Russian citizen, but it was in 2004 just after adoption of new regulations when President Saakashvili gave him and his wife Georgian citizenship under the new rules. This kind of citizenship which is given only to people with great public or state merit cannot be removed later under the law. Moreover, in his first public statement on October 7, 2011 Ivanishvili expressed his readiness to give up his Russian and French citizenship to keep his Georgian citizenship but the president neglected Ivanishvili’s rights and made a rapid decision against the businessman’s will.

On October 11, 2011 when Saakashvili signed the decision depriving Ivanishvili's citizenship Saakashvili violated Georgian legislation because the article which he used to do this refers only to people with Georgian citizenship either from birth or through naturalization while reception of the citizenship under the exceptional rule based on public merit does not prevent a person from becoming a citizen of other countries.

Stressing that Ivanishvili’s case was a precedent in terms of illegal deprivation of honorable citizenship, the lawyers explained the sameness of dual and multi citizenship under Georgian and international legislation, as a way of improving cooperation among countries. Calling it “an act of political revenge” Ivanishvili’s lawyer Eka Beselia said she has information about people who have kept Georgian citizenship even after receiving the citizenship of other countries. “Even the government knows about such cases, but we won’t endanger them by revealing their names,” explained Beselia.

The lawyers hoped that the court would try its best to review the case by the letter of the law and restore Georgian citizenship to Ivanishvili and his wife. The next hearing is scheduled on December 8, but if the Georgian court does not manage to make a decision the case will move to the international judicial sphere. “The president has obviously overstepped his authority but we have to win this battle here in Tbilisi,” Zakaria Kutsnashvili said, planning to meet the media and diplomatic corps to show the line where the Georgian president’s authority starts and where it ends.