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Eavesdropping remains a problem

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, December 12
The Interior Ministry does not want to deliver a control mechanism that addresses eavesdropping to mobile operators.

Transparency International Lawyer Ekaterine Bokuchava stressed on December 11 that the MIA is the only structure that can tackle the issue and control the eavesdropping done on each citizen through mobiles when the ministry wishes.

“The reason the ministry does not want to deliver the mechanism to the mobile operators is that 90% of investigations are carried out through hidden eavesdropping. Of course, the ministry will have to deny the ugly practice and study how to investigate crimes without using this method,” Bokuchava said.

She emphasized that the MIA can listen to 21, 000 subscribers at the same time. She informed that Geocell and Magticom confirmed that there is equipment to do this at their headquarters.

Bokuchava stated that eavesdropping can be used only in the last stage of an investigation, and should be used for only the most serious of crimes.

Editor-in-Chief of Rezonansi newspaper and one of the people who spearheaded the eavesdropping issue, Lasha Tughushi, states that there are special rooms in the mobile operators’ offices where the ministry controls calls and records them.

“Of course eavesdropping is one of the mechanisms used against criminals. However, the process should be controlled. There is no control in Georgia, and no legal prohibitions concerning the issue,” Tughushi said. He states that the current Government of Georgia claims that now the police is kind, and that it will not use the mechanism illegally.

“However, kindness is not a guarantee,” Tughushi says.

Concerning the issue, The Messenger contacted the MIA press service. However, despite the promise, we could not get them to comment on the issue before the newspaper went to print.

According to the Deputy Minister of Justice, Aleksandre Baramidze, secret eavesdropping will move to the Criminal Procedure Code.

“This means that the eavesdropping will start when law-enforcement launch criminal prosecution against an individual. After the process, the individual will also be able to appeal the eavesdropping,” Baramidze said.

Several drafts have been initiated in the parliament regarding eavesdropping. NGOs are working with the parliament. According to Bokuchava, TI will introduce its recommendations and remarks concerning the drafts. Parliamentary hearings on the drafts will be launched the following year.