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Bar Association members turn against their chairperson

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, February 26
Members of the Georgian Bar Association are launching procedures to dismiss the body’s current head, Zaza Khatiashvili. They made a statement over the issue on February 25. The Bar Association representatives claim that Khatiashvili is engaged in making political statements and justifying the criminal actions committed by the previous Georgian government. They also hint of possible collaboration between Khatiashvili and the opposition UNM party. The Bar Association representatives also state that Khatiahsvili has sent a letter to the Russian President Vladimir Putin for financial assistance. Khatiahvili, condemns the moves and calls them politically motivated.

According to association member Nikoloz Mzhavanadze, the association has become a political body and an additional structure of the political party that should answer for its criminal past.

“It is revolting for us when the head of the association makes supportive statements concerning individuals like Goga Oniani and Romeo Sajaia. The past actions of the people have raised serious concerns. Statements that these men are politically persecuted are absurd,” Mzhavanadze stated.

He informed that according to association regulations, 10% of the members should call a meeting and raise the issue of Khatiashvili’s resignation.

“There are 4,000 members in the association and only 1,000 voted for Khatiahsvili during the elections. He does not have a lot of legitimacy,” Mzhavanadze said, stressing that Khatiashvili sent a letter to Putin two months ago asking for financial support.

“I would not be surprised if he is allied with the United National Movement as well,” Mzhavanadze said.

Fellow member Nugzar Birkaia stated that Khatiashvili has always been making political statements and did not face real problems like other lawyers under the UNM government.

Responding to the allegations, Khatiashvili stated that he has always opposed the UNM government and was persecuted by them. He denied the information concerning the letter to Putin, stating that after the August War in 2008, he has not visited Russia as a sign of protest.

“This process is politically based by some political force,” Khatiashvili stated, repeating that there was z political basis for the detention of Giorgi (Goga) Oniani, who is the lawyer of former Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia and the former deputy head of the Gldani-Nadzlaladevi police department.

Oniani was charged on February 25. The lawyer is accused of misusing his authority, illegal confinement of a person and evidence forgery. Oniani announced that he was going on hunger strike in protest, accusing the government of political persecution.

EU Ambassador to Georgia Phillip Dimitrov has commented on the detention. Dimitrov says that the detention of any opposition figure raises doubts when it happens prior to the elections. According to him, it would be better if the international observers look into similar cases.