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Komagi foundation accused of being Georgian Dream front

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, May 16
The newly-established charity foundation Komagi has already prompted controversy in Georgia.

Ia Metreveli, chair of the foundation, announced that her organization (whose name in Georgian means "defender") will assist “every repressed person” who has become “a political refugee” for “free speech and expression”.

Looking at individual violations, a five- or six-member commission will provide “political refugees” with 1500-5000 GEL and offer free legal assistance.

The foundation will begin by assisting those teachers who, according to Metreveli, were released from their positions “for political reasons”, for supporting the restoration of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship. She declined to reveal their names.

Metreveli said that Komagi itself is funded by Georgian emigrants and business persons living abroad and denied any connection with Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream. “We are an absolutely independent organization,” she said, confident that the foundation will awaken feelings of solidarity and support among Georgians.

Metreveli is the mother of Buta Robakidze, the man who was killed by a patrol police officer in 2004. As she said, after her tragedy she cannot have positive feelings towards the current government. Expressing her political sympathies for Ivanishvili, she said she has greeted his entrance to the Georgian political arena with hope that the current administration will be defeated in the fall elections.

But in a story published by Rezonansi on May 14, Georgian Dream member Sozar Subari encouraged Georgians to oppose “government oppression”, saying that Komagi would protect them. Suspecting collaboration between the foundation and Georgian Dream, the Monitoring Service of the Chamber of Control asked civil society actors and international organizations to engage in the process to ensure transparency of the political parties’ financial accountability.

In a joint report released by Transparency International Georgia, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, and the coalition Free Choice and Multinational Georgia, the organizations expressed their concern that “a new charity fund might be misused to influence voters by the opposition coalition Georgian Dream”.

The NGOs explained that “Georgian law bans political parties from directly or indirectly offering, promising or providing money, services or other advantages”.

Urging political actors to refrain from any activities that could be perceived as bribing voters by offering free services or gifts in order to increase their public support, the group noted that any monetary or non-monetary advantages might have a significant impact on voters’ behaviour and their relationships to political parties and candidates.

But as Georgian Dream representative Tina Khidasheli said, there is no relationship between the political coalition and the foundation. “I called Ia Metreveli... and she told me that she has had the idea of establishing such a foundation since Buta’s death, [but it only] became possible to fulfil this idea now,” Khidasheli maintained, stressing that she has no inside information about Komagi.