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‘Attack against the state’ PM responds to leak of sex video

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, March 14
“It is an attack against the state, and we will counter it severely!” Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said in response to a sex video allegedly reflecting one of opposition leaders on Youtube.

The video, the authenticity of which has not been confirmed yet, was uploaded to Youtube on March 11 and the link was sent to journalists in their Facebook inboxes. One of the online media outlets, Interpressnews, wrote about the video and named the politician in it without uploading the footage.

Georgia’s law-enforcers shortly blocked the video but about 135 people managed to view it for the 40 minutes in which it was available, allegedly depicting a member of the Free Democrats (FD) Party.

“What happened is an attempt to blackmail and intimidate society as a whole, not just one person. It is an attack against the state, and we will counter it severely!” Kvirikashvili said.

“I have instructed the relevant law enforcement institutions, including the Prosecutor's Office, the State Security Agency, and the Interior Ministry, to launch a speedy investigation into this case. It is a test which our investigative bodies must pass. We are ready to engage any organization and any group able to provide help in this process,” the PM stressed.

The case has caused a serious stir amongst the public. The wave of dissatisfaction also hit Interpressnews, as one of Georgia’s most influential and reliable news agencies.

The agency apologised for spreading the information and fired one of its leading figures responsible for its editorial policy.

However, Georgia’s Ministers of Justice, Defence and the President’s administration stated that the agency’s action was “intolerable” and they said they henceforth have cancelled cooperation with Interpressnews.

The leader of the Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania, said that the “black campaign” against his party came from one of the Governmental groups, which was not under the control of current Prime Minister.

Alasania did not exclude the possibility that the former United National Movement (UNM) Government’s might also be responsible, as the UNM Government was engaged in taping and collecting such videos, but he more hinted that his suspicions were centred around former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, as he believes Ivanishvili to be more likely to “order” such an act.

Alasania added that the recent attack on his party member Alex Petriashvili - who was shot and wounded - and now the release of the video against “one of his party leaders” was “some, anti-Georgian group’s fight” against his party’s “fast-growing” rating.

The UNM immediately said it was the “Government’s fault”, as only the Government had access to such videos previously taped and stored under the UNM leadership.

Various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), who expressed their anger in the form of a protest in front of the Government’s administration in Tbilisi the same day, also shifted blame onto the Government, as it failed to investigate former facts of leak of such videos and did not appropriately punish “criminals”.

They also said that the current 4-year prison sentence for such type of crimes was “inadequate.”

Georgia’s Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili also confirmed that such a short sentence was ineffectual and claimed that such crimes should be equal to acts of terrorism.

Usupashvili appealed to law-enforcement bodies to cooperate with foreign, influential anti-terrorist organisations and set a bounty worth 1 million GEL for timely revealing the people spreading such videos.

Meanwhile, members of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition (GD) said that spreading such videos would never be in the leading power’s interest, and said there was a high possibility that UNM-affiliated people were engaged in the “anti-state activities”.

They said that the incumbent government was discussing options to make the legislation strict to such crimes.

Public disgust at videos depicting private lives and sexual abuse in prisons were one of the main reasons the UNM was defeated by the GD coalition in 2012 parliamentary race.

About 110 CDs containing total of 144 files with over 181 hours of secret video recordings of private lives of citizens, obtained by the previous government through illegal surveillance, were destroyed on September 5 2013 by the current Government with the promise that such videos would have never disturb the public again.

However, the current GD members do not exclude the possibility that copies of such videos are still possessed by UNM members.

In May 2013, Georgia’s First Deputy Interior Minister Gela Khvedelidze was fired as he spread one of such videos against a man who was criticising the GD Government and him personally.

Khvedelidze also had to pay a fine for committing the offence.