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Chamber of Control questioning opposition supporters

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, March 14
The Chamber of Control continues to question the supporters of political coalition Georgian Dream, and other opposition parties, particularly in the regions.

As NGO Freedom of Choice reported on March 13, the Chamber has been questioning those individuals in Guria "who have a critical attitude towards the authorities". The organization says that people have been called into regional government offices and questioned for approximately an hour without representation. Questioning is conducted by representatives of the Chamber, as well as law enforcement.

Zaal Mamaladze, the brother of Guria News publisher Ia Mamaladze, was called in for questioning, although he is not a registered member of any political party. "We think that the government, through the Chamber of Control, is trying to influence the publisher of the newspaper," Freedom of Choice explained.

Guria News reported the story, and journalist Nato Gogelia noted that supporters of the National Forum have also been questioned "under psychological pressure".

Topics included monthly salaries, and how much money supporters received from Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili. "I responded that I [received] 100 GEL, for collecting signatures for Ivanishvili’s citizenship, and got that money through the bank, as it was understood based on our agreement,” Koba Bektashvili, a Republican Party activist, said.

Shalva Tsertsvadze, a Georgian Dream supporter, says that he was checked, placed in a room with poor ventilation, and was threatened.

"I said that I have only a mother aged 80, and what problems might be created for her? They responded exactly that she would have problems if I tell somebody I was questioned by them," he claims.

As Gaioz Kinkladze, chair of the Poti Republican Party, said, he has received an order from the Chamber based on an administrative charge, "however, nothing is said about the reason why I was charged, for what administrative violation, and why should I be questioned by the Chamber of Control". He has demanded that the Chamber explain the sanctions against him, "Otherwise, I will be preventing from using my rights granted through the law". The Republican Party has made the appeal directly to Natia Mogeladze, head of the Chamber's Monitoring Department.

The Chamber confirms that it is questioning regional supporters of opposition parties, and maintains that the process will continue. "We are checking information on [the legality of] regional estimates of the political parties. We are checking and collecting information and then comparing it to the financial declaration of the parties”.

Representatives from the ruling administration claim that they have no information regarding the questioning of opposition activists in the regions. As head of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, Pavle Kublashvili, noted, if there is concrete information regarding illegal donations from the regions, the information must be checked. "The Chamber of Control has the right to carry out this activity. As for questioning of opposition supporters in the regions and which procedures are undertaken, I have no information".

A representative of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Maia Katamadze, confirmed that, based on recent amendments to the law on political unions, the Chamber currently has the right to demand information about property and finances from individuals as they would from banks. "The form it uses for carrying out such action is not solid; however, the Chamber of Control has the right to demand such information".

Economic analyst Davit Narmania notes that restrictions in campaign finance law affects the ruling United National Movement, too. "Thus, the authorities will try their best to mobilize as much money as possible in the [government] budget through administrative means, to finance several programs needed for the pre-election campaign. This money, which will be gained by the Chamber of Control through fines on political parties, will be indirectly used for the National Movement’s goals," he believes. Narmania also remarked that another result of the Chamber's actions is the direct targeting through financial restriction of the major opposition movement, and the administration's main rival.