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NSC responds to paramilitary accusations

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, March 26
The National Security Council (NSC) has responded to Irakli Alasania’s accusation of illegal armed groups in west Georgia, by releasing a statement dismissing the materials delivered by the leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats as containing nothing of interest.

Alasania, who is also a leading member of the Georgian Dream coalition, recently accused the Saakashvili administration of creating paramilitary groups in Samegrelo for use against his rivals during the election period.

A list sent by Alasania and published by the NSC on their website claims that there are 12 illegal groups in west Georgia and gives the names of group leaders and participants, their approximate numbers and locations.

The list does not contain “any valuable information," according to the Secretary of the National Security Council. Giga Bokeria stated that those on the list are employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, and regional police departments. "It is absolutely unclear to me if Georgian police and armed forces are illegal units. The forecasting of tragedy like that in Syria is most irresponsible," he stated, referencing Alasania's claim that the groups could be used to turn Samegrelo into Homs, the Syrian city violently besieged by its own government.

In response, the Free Democrats maintain that such groups have been used in the past to intimidate the population, and that this recent controversy has merely revealed the "real" face of the government. They cited pre-Rose Revolution elections, when armed officers in civilian clothing abused opposition voters without punishment. Alasania says that he is raising this issue in an attempt to stop similar actions in time and prevent conflict.

The party is also casting suspicion on the government's explanation that the groups are part of the voluntary reserve system, necessary in case of military emergency or natural disaster. They claim that the government is working to make legislative changes to the reserve system law in the wake of Alasania's statements, which in his words, “increases our presumption about the government’s plans". He believes that there are "several criminals known to the public" amongst the volunteers, while the government maintains that legislation bans ex-convicted felons from joining the reserve.

He affirmed that his party's support for the "honest and patriotic military servicemen and policemen remains steadfast," asserting that Bokeria’s "attempt to [set them against] the public is doomed to failure”.

A statement was also made by parliamentary minority party the Christian-Democrats, who noted that the information provided by Alasania might be interesting for Georgia's enemies. Party representative Levan Vepkhvadze advised the government to put state interests first, before the election campaign.

“If Alasania had trusted the Security Council, he would have gone there first and, [getting] no response, would have voiced the issue [in public]. In general, statements that claim if Saakashvili is defeated a civil war might ensue, are profitable only for the current leadership, as such a message threatens people that if they do not support Saakashvili, there will be chaos in the state".

Political analyst Malkhaz Chemia doubts that such groups would be set against their opponents. He noted that, while Alasania may be partially correct, such statements might be bad for Georgia, and potentially used against it by foreign forces. "As I have heard, the de-facto Abkhaz leadership has already used the statement and related it to their de-facto elections,” he said.

However, he maintains that such statements are necessary for “the annihilation of non-official means to carry out pressure on opponents.” Chemia believes that the government will avoid the use of official forces to suppress the opposition, as the international community would prevent or condemn such activities, categorizing recent statements by foreign ambassadors as "warnings" for the government.

He also emphasized that the opposition needs to approach this issue from a legislative level, such as with the controversial Law on Political Unions of Citizens. As with this matter, the government will have to take American remarks into consideration.