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Ivanishvili decries "crimes" against supporters

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, March 16
The Chamber of Control has turned into the Prosecutor’s Office, according to Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, in response to accusations that the Chamber is questioning opposition activists without cause.

“Our government has forgotten that we have laws in this country. It does not pay attention to justice any more. It commits crimes against our coalition. We informed the diplomatic corps of the present situation,” Ivanishvili declared on Thursday.

He called on the government to respect the law, asserting that “they will have to pay for their illegal actions”.

As for the reaction of the diplomatic corps, Ivanishvili said they have yet to make a statement. “As a rule, diplomats do not make assessments so quickly; they will presumably make statements later”.

The Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) reported that members of their organization, along with members of opposition political parties, were summed for questioning, which GYLA called insulting. “Our lawyer, Gia Kartsivadze, due to the pressure meted out to him by representative of the Chamber of Control, Gaga Chankseliani, left the questioning process".

NGOs and media outlets behind the campaign "It Concerns You" (It Affects You) also condemned the mass interrogation. A joint statement of the organizations claims that the Financial Monitoring Service of the Chamber questioned more than 150 people from March 12-14. "We think that the interrogation method and duration (often 5- 6 hours), as well as the questions asked, were aimed at intimidating people,” the statement reads.

The Chamber has responded with an official statement, which defends their actions as merely checking and comparing financial information.

Representatives from the ruling United National Movement link the actions of the Chamber to recommendations from the Venice Commission on campaign finance law. Head of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, Pavle Kublashvili, maintains that the actions carried out by the Chamber are legal. "This is a criminal procedure and the Chamber is getting information from those initial sources which might be related to obscure finances. The [level of activity] of the Chamber of Control is the recommendation of the European Union and the Venice Commission.” Kublashvili also noted that law enforcement representatives do not participate in any process undertaken by the Chamber.

He also alleged that critical statements made by NGOs might hint at their relationships with political parties. "There is some information regarding a certain obscurity of Georgian Dream’s financial issues and the Chamber of Control is checking this information with some concrete figures. The information is being checked with those persons who rented out buildings in the regions to Georgian Dream. There are cases when the money for a building is paid by some legal entity and not by the party, which is in violation of the law".

Constitutional expert, Vakhtang Khmaladze, disagrees with this interpretation. "Every action that exceeds constitutional norms is illegal. Such actions, meaning the forced questioning of citizens [and] the use of police for this, do not fit the Constitution. Such actions might be carried out by different investigative bodies [such as] the Prosecutor’s Office, [but] not Parliament".

Head of the Elections and Political Science Centre, Kakha Kakhishvili, believes that Georgian Dream should create teams of lawyers to protect its voters. "When you oppose such a giant as Saakashvili, you should know that all the levers would be used against you". He is also sure that the Chamber of Control will continue to pressure Ivanishvili’s supporters. "I appeal to the non-governmental organizations to unite and to give legal assistance to those people questioned by the Chamber".