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Three ex-officials to prison for illegal surveillance

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, June 30
Tbilisi City Court has sentenced three former officials of the previous United National Movement (UNM) Government for exceeding their official power and using computer systems for illegal purposes, in particular for illegal surveillance.

The three former officials were ex-Deputy Interior Minister Shota Khizanishvili, ex-head of the Constitutional Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Levan Kardava, and ex-Deputy Head of the Constitutional Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Vasil Leluashvili.

Khizanishvili and Kardava have been found guilty of exceeding of official power and were sentenced to one year and six months in prison. They were also deprived of taking state posts for two years.

Meanwhile, Leluashvili was sent to prison for three years and deprived of taking state positions for two years as he was found guilty of exceeding his official power and using computer systems for illegal surveillance.

Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office reported in 2009 that Leluashvili tasked the staff of his department to create a computer program that enabled access to any computer systems and could illegally record conversations taking place near the computers.

The Office said this “virus program” was created in 2011 through which the Constitutional Security Department carried out illegal access to various computer systems and obtained personal information unlawfully.

The Prosecutor’s Office also announced on September 27 2012 that ex-Deputy Head of Interior Ministry Khizanishvili exercised illegal psychological pressure on a bodyguard of then-opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The body guard, B. Surmava, was forced to say that he, on Ivanishvili’s order, illegally recorded conversations of members of Georgian Dream opposition, which was founded by Ivanishvili prior to the 2012 parliamentary race to defeat the UNM.

The office said that at that time the Ministry of Internal Affairs and not Ivanishvili was carrying out illegal surveillance, for which Khizansihvili unlawfully spent ˆ150,000 of state money.

On September 27, 28, and 29 of 2014, the staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs released the illegally obtained surveillance recordings on You Tube under the name of B. Surmava.

Speaking about Leluashvili, the Prosecutor’s Office added that prior to the 2012 parliamentary elections, on the ex-official’s order, his staff deliberately damaged the equipment and property owned by Channel 9, the TV channel founded by Ivanishvili.

The property was placed at a custom’s terminal and the losses suffered by the media outlet amounted to $346,000.

The state prosecution questioned about 60 witnesses, and studied eight volumes of documents to file the charges.

The United National Movement opposition believes the case was politically motivated and Khizanishvili and other ex-officials are victims of the political persecution initiated by Georgia’s ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.