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Chamber condemned for questioning of opposition activists

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 15
The Georgian Public Defender, non-governmental organizations, and political parties have all released statements regarding the questioning of opposition activists in the regions by the Chamber of Control. They underline that the process is not transparent and human rights are being violated.

Over the past two days, the Chamber has been questioning people in the regions in buildings belonging to local municipalities. According to media reports, individuals have been summoned in Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Poti, Sagarejo, Gurjaani, Lanchkhuti, and Chikhatauri. Dozens across the regions have received notices from the Chamber, informing addressees that they are being summoned to give their statement regarding administrative and financial procedures in opposition political parties.

The Georgia Young Lawyer's Association (GYLA) believes that all individuals should be informed of why they have been summoned to give statements, and that every person should be able to exercise their right to legal representation guaranteed by the Constitution.

“The process should be transparent and journalists should be allowed to carry out their professional activities. It is the positive obligation of the government to provide an opportunity for realization of the right to defense for every individual,” they commented.

The GYLA maintains that the process of questioning includes psychological pressure and even abuse. The organization "calls on the Chamber of Control to ensure protection of constitutional rights of all citizens, based on the principles of objectivity and openness".

The Public Defender intends to study the issue. Ombudsman Giorgi Tughushi remarked, "The process of summoning people under pressure from the Chamber of Control’s representatives... imposes indignation. I will study all the cases regarding the issue". He noted that, under the law, the Chamber has the right to demand financial information from political parties, but the organization must not exceed its limits.

Head of the Chamber of Control, Levan Bezhashvili, calls the organization's actions legal. "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”.

The only administration representative to comment has been Pavle Kublashvili, head of the Parliamentary Legal Committee. He admitted that he has no information regarding the questioning of opposition activists, but affirmed that the Chamber has the right to seek information on financial matters. No other United National Movement MPs were available to be interviewed by The Messenger.

This explanation is perceived as absurd by minority representatives. As one of the leaders of the Republican Party, Tina Khidasheli, remarked, the Chamber of Control has become a weapon of punishment in the hands of the current leadership of Georgia.

Few violation reports, which explain why a person has been called for interrogation, appear to exist for the questioned activists. Reports that are available are incomplete, lacking numbers, dates, or signatures, Khidasheli claims. She also noted that among those activists who were summoned, none have donated to Georgian Dream and so the activities of the Chamber amount to nothing more than "terrorizing" people.

A statement was also released by member of Georgian Dream, Kakhi Kaladze. "The President, who in his hysteria has exceeded all limits... for preserving power, tries to threaten our supporters and provoke us. We will not leave our citizens alone and very soon all will see it,” he proclaimed, saying that everyone involved in the questioning will be punished under the law.