The release of ethnic Armenian Vaang Chakhalian via the new amnesty legislation has caused irritation and has drawn a strong reaction from Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and United National Movement (UNM) minority representatives. The release of Chakhalian was viewed as a dangerous step for the state’s interests according to them.
Saakashvili condemns Chakhalian’s release
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, January 28
Chakhalian was released late on January 24. The former prisoner went to one of the Armenian Churches in Tbilisi and announced that he would soon leave for Armenia. He was sent to prison for ten years in 2009 on charges of dealing in arms and plotting disorder. Chakhalian’s case was removed from the list of political prisoners. However, he was still released for charges that fell under some of the articles embodied in the new amnesty law.
During the President’s special briefing dedicated to Chakhaliani’s release, Saakashvili mentioned those charges that were not mentioned in Chakhaliani’s case at all. The president underscored that he is a Russian spy.
The president emphasized that Chakhalian was the head of the Javakhk movement that has demanded the separation of Georgia’s Javakheti region from the homeland. Moreover, the President stated that Chakhalian was a Russian spy who had committed several crimes including the invasion of the Orthodox Church in Javakheti and raiding the Georgian university, as well as the local administration building and police office. Saakashvili said that Chakhalian was collaborating with Russian officials while committing these actions.
The president also believes that the release of Chakhalian was based on the appeal of the Armenian Patriarch and was a “personal decision” made by the Prime Minister.
“Ivanishvili acted based on another country’s interests (Russian) rather than the interests of his homeland,” Saakashvili stated, adding that by releasing Chakhalian, obstacles might be created for the railway being constructed in Javakheti.
“Russia blocked us concerning the Abkhazian railway. Then we launched the construction of the railway in Javakheti that will connect Georgia to Europe. By releasing Khachalian, Russia will try to create obstacles for the construction process,” Saakashvili said.
MP Goga Khachildze stated that Chakhalian not only announced that Javakheti was not a Georgian region, he has always been prepared to carry out specific physical steps in this direction, including rallies, protests, vandalism and other actions.
Chakhalian rejected this blame and stated that he has never demanded Javakheti’s annexation from Georgia and called the charges against him “invented.”
“My aim is to encourage better relations between Georgia and Armenia. Ethnic Armenians should be more integrated into Georgian society,” Chakhalian said.
The Prime Minister confirmed that he was asked about Chakhalian’s case while he was in Armenia. However, the PM offered no information.
“It was not my field and I mentioned that the appropriate Georgian bodies should respond. I could not make any decision concerning the issue,” Ivanishvili said.
Minister of Corrections Sozar Subari responded to the accusations calling them “shameless lies.”
The minister emphasized that through the amnesty, specific articles were amnestied and not individuals.
“All the crimes Chakhalian committed were not severe crimes and like other prisoners, he was released,” Subari said.
Minister of Justice Tea Tsulikiani stated that in the case that Chakhalian acted in a way that adversely affect Georgian interests that would be a different crime.
The Armenian Diocese called upon Saakashvili and other leaders of the UNM to abstain from making provocative statements
“We condemn such statements. These issues directly affect the peace and calmness in our multi-ethnic motherland, as well as relations between the Georgian and Armenian nations,” the statement reads.