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The News in Brief

Thursday, May 12
Eka Mishveladze appointed as President’s Press-speaker

Journalist Eka Mishveladze has been appointed as the President’s press-speaker. Following the announcement, the head of the Presidential Administration, Giorgi Abashishvili, presented her to the reporters.

“Eka Mishveladze has been appointed as the press-speaker. She will be the person that will intensively cooperate with you. She has experience in terms of working in the state sector as well as 25-years of experience in journalism. Therefore I am sure she will be a vital member of the presidential team and administration,” Abashishvili said.

In turn, Eka Mishveladze has thanked the administration for trusting her. (IPN)

President: Proposed Constitutional Bar on Same-Sex Marriage is ‘Storm in Teacup’

“The constitutional bill proposed by the Georgian Dream party to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman is not an issue at all in Georgia, and it was floated for the purpose of diverting public attention from real problems in the country,” President Giorgi Margvelashvili said on May 10.

“I believe this is an invented issue,” he said. “Why stir a storm in a teacup? The answer is simple: in order not to talk about jobs; in order not to talk about education; in order not to talk about culture; in order not to talk about occupied [territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia].

“The government's position on marriage is already defined – same-sax marriage is unacceptable for 99.9 per cent of Georgia’s population; it is defined in the Georgian legislation; there is a consensus in the Parliament – so why speak about it when some are hungry and Georgian territories are still under occupation? You should not be provoked by a politician who tells you that this is an important issue…there are thousands of things which are more important,” he said while meeting pupils in one of Tbilisi’s public schools when asked if he supports same-sex marriage.

Proposal to introduce the constitutional amendment was first voiced by then PM Irakli Garibashvili in March 2014 and refloated by current PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili in early March, 2016. The constitutional amendment was initiated by 80 lawmakers – most of them MPs from the GD parliamentary majority group, as well 7 out of the Free Democrats opposition party’s 8 lawmakers. The Republican Party, a member of the GD ruling coalition, “distanced” itself from the process of initiating of the proposal, but two of its lawmakers put signatures on initiation of the bill.

The bill was discussed and backed by the parliamentary committee for human rights on May 5. During the hearing, a co-sponsor of the bill, Zviad Dzidziguri of the Conservative Party, was citing the need to “strengthen families” and “children’s rights” when speaking about the arguments in favour of the proposal.

“We have a grave demographic situation in Georgia,” he said “This amendment is very important because we have to take care of our children and I believe that it is the right of children to have a female mother and male father.”

Rights groups say the initiative is a “populist” move ahead of the parliamentary elections aimed at winning support of Georgia’s predominantly conservative society. Rights activists, who were present at the parliamentary committee hearing, were telling lawmakers that the initiative was further marginalizing the LGBT community and causing a further rise in homophobic sentiment in the country. Gay rights activists also say that right to same-sex marriage has never been high on their agenda in the country, where LGBT people face much more pressing problems such as physical, psychological and verbal abuse.

Article 36 of the Georgian constitution currently reads: “Marriage shall be based upon equality of rights and free will of spouses.”

The proposal to amend the constitution offers the following wording: “Marriage, which is a voluntary union of a woman and a man with the purpose of creating a family, shall be based on the equal rights of spouses.”

Georgia’s civil code already specifies that marriage is a “voluntary union of man and woman”, effectively banning same-sex marriage.

Any constitutional amendment requires support of at least 113 MPs in the 150-seat Parliament. The amendment has to be passed with three readings, which cannot be held during the one plenary session cycle. If the amendment is approved with the first and second hearing during the spring session of the parliament, the final vote should be held during the autumn session, no earlier than three months from the first two votes. (

Israel investigates a corruption case with former Georgian minister of defence

Gal Hirsch, an Israeli suspect in bribing the former minister of defence, Davit Kezerashvili, was questioned under caution by the Israeli Police’s fraud squad, Haaretzreported.

Mr Hirsch was a brigadier general in the Israeli aAmy before he started the private security consulting company, Defensive Shield. He and four other senior company executives were questioned for several hours on Tuesday over deals in Georgia that raised suspicions of bribery, aggravated fraud, money laundering and tax offences.

In September 2015, Mr Hirsch’s candidature for the chief of Israel’s police was withdrawn following a growing scandal around Defensive Shield and the corruption probe involving Davit Kezerashvili.

Haaretz writes that police suspect the executives of Defensive Shield used fraud and bribery to obtain contracts worth tens of millions of dollars. The person they are suspected of bribing is Davit Kezerashvili. Police believe the bribes were mediated by a personal friend of Kezerashvili who knows Hirsch. Police also suspect that in one particular project, the executives fraudulently obtained payments much larger than those to which they were entitled.

Davit Kezerashvili was a high official in the UNM’s government and formerly a minister of defence. He iswanted by the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia in connection to a number of crimes, including exceeding official authority,appropriation of a company, and embezzlement. His name was featured in Panama Papers, which sheds some light on his path to becoming an oligarch.

He is currently residing in the UK. In April, a London court refused to extradite Mr Kezerashvili to Georgia arguing that the charges are politically motivated and bear signs of ‘ongoing political persecution’. (DF watch)