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The News in Brief

Friday, March 28
Watchdog groups comment on summoning Saakashvili for questioning

Several civil society groups said on March 26 that a number of aspects surrounding the summoning of former president Mikheil Saakashvili for questioning “may cast a shadow over objective investigation” and called on the authorities not to give rise to the suspicion that the process is politically motivated.

“It is obvious that any citizen of Georgia, including former president, is equal before the law and, if needed, is obliged to cooperate with an investigation. But because of especially high public interest, this process should proceed with the highest transparency and openness. It is of utmost importance to rule out any suspicion about politically motivated prosecution, which can significantly damage country’s image,” a joint statement by International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International Georgia, Georgian Democracy Initiative and Civil Development Agency (CiDA) reads.

“At this stage there are a number of circumstances, which may seriously cast a shadow over objective investigation. We think that the Prosecutor’s Office should provide more information to the public about why it became necessary to question Mikheil Saakashvili, particularly now, and how it happened that his questioning became needed simultaneously on multiple cases,” the statement says. (Civil.Ge)

President meets EU-Georgia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee members

The President of Georgia held a meeting with the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee at the President’s palace. The parties discussed the acceleration of the date of signing the EU association agreement with Georgia and other regional issues. The parties emphasized the significance of the role of the European Union towards the settlement of conflicts in the region. They said it was important to intensify the activities of the European Union’s Monitoring Mission.

“We appreciate very much that we have an opportunity to meet with the president of Georgia. We had a very open and very friendly discussion. We have informed the president of Georgia about the results of our meeting yesterday and the day before, about the statement we adopted during the parliamentary cooperation committee meeting. We stress our strong support of the European future of Georgia, we count Georgia as a European state, we are supporting Georgia’s reforms and developments,” a member of the delegation said. (Rustavi 2)

EU MPs visit villages adjacent to Tskhinvali conflict region

A delegation of the members of the parliament, who arrived in Georgia on a working visit, arrived in the Shida Kartli Region and viewed the situation in the villages adjacent to the occupied South Ossetia region. The delegation of five European lawmakers visited the EUMM office in Gori, where they reported details about the situation in the area. They also arrived in the village of Khurvaleti and saw the places, where the Russian occupant forces had constructed barbwire fences.

“We are here, visiting this ground, where the European Union Monitoring Mission is working for many years and we are here to support their job here, because they are supporting the population here. We saw the boundary line and saw how the separation of the country`s territory affects the life of the local population,” Millan Cabrnokh said.

Members of the European Parliament’s delegation said they have been assessing the situation in these territories as an occupation for the past few years. (Rustavi 2)

Sokhumi rules out referendum on joining Russia

The holding of a referendum in Abkhazia on whether to join Russia or not “is out of the question,” Kristian Bzhania, the Abkhaz leader’s spokesman, told Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress on March 25.

“It should be emphasized that the issue of joining the Russian Federation is not raised and is not even discussed in the Republic of Abkhazia, either by the public or by the authorities. Therefore, a referendum on this issue is out of the question,” Bzhania said.

“It will not be held not because someone is afraid of its results, but because there is no need for it at all,” he added.

Bzhania also reiterated Sokhumi’s “unconditional support” of the decision regarding the incorporation of Crimea into Russia and said that it was “a just decision from any point of view.” He, however, also added Abkhazia is a “completely different” case.

“As far as the current Abkhaz-Russian relationship is concerned, it is developing rather dynamically, encompassing actually all the areas of mutual interest,” he said.

“The level and quality of this relationship does not leave space for above mentioned discussions” on whether to join Russia or not, Bzhania added. (Civil.Ge)

LGBT group in Georgia cancels May 17 demonstration

Identoba, an organization which protects the rights of sexual minorities in Georgia, has decided to not mark the international day against homophobia on May 17.

Last year, the organization announced it would organize a demonstration for the rights of LGBT people a couple of weeks before May 17. This inspired tens of thousands of activists and followers of Orthodox clerics to gather the same day for a counter-rally which succeeded in preventing the Identoba event.

There were clashes during the day resulting in injuries, also to journalists.

On Wednesday, Irakli Vacharadze, head of the organization, issued a statement in the name of Identoba saying that his organization will not hold a rally on May 17. He said certain groups have already discussed violent scenarios for that day, and in order to avoid them, no rally will be held. As for himself, Vacharadze said he won’t be in Georgia that day.

“You cannot protect the rights of people in fifteen minutes on May 17. I do it every day of the year, including Saturdays and Sundays. So in this regards, May 17 is not a special day for me,” he added.

Vacharadze says he hasn’t heard anything about other organizations planning to hold a rally or any other event on that day yet.

After last year’s events, some people accused Identoba of having profited from the dispersal of the rally, that it was a way to receive more grants and financing from international organizations and funds.

“May 17 brings no material good for us, including grants,” Vacharadze writes. “If you really care about the rights of people, you cannot achieve anything by turning May 17 into a scandal.”

He says the domestic and international media shouldn’t speculate on the rights of people. (Democracy & Freedom Watch)