The messenger logo

Ex-official refuses to attend court hearing

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, September 22
Georgia’s former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs under the previous United National Movement (UNM) government has refused to come to Georgia from Ukraine and answer questions at Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office over the dispersal of a peaceful opposition rally on May 26 2011.

Gia Lortkipanidze said he now serves as Odessa National Police Main Department head and his summoning at Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office yesterday coincided with his speech at Ukraine’s Parliament.

Lorkipanidze, who serves in Ukraine alongside Georgia’s ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and other Georgian former officials, was called by the Prosecutor’s Office after the body released new video footage depicting the opposition rally's dispersal by the UNM authorities on September 20.

The Prosecutor’s Office have already charged four ex-police officials, namely the former head of Georgia’s Constitutional Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Data Akhalaia, and his three subordinates.

In the video, Akhalaia demands the arrest of “all protesters” and also promises bonuses to his staff. The video also depicts the police blocking all the paths people could leave the area through.

Akhalaia is currently on the run, while his ex-deputies are in Georgia.

After the release of the video, the Prosecutor’s Office said the dispersal was organized by Georgia’ ex-Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, who is now in prison serving four years and six months behind bars for exceeding of official powers regarding the case.

Lortkipanidze said he has already given a “comprehensive testimony” about the case and after giving the testimony had lived in Georgia for three years.

He also said the current Georgian Dream (GD) Government, which took office in 2012 after defeating the nine-year rule of the UNM, “deliberately” released the footage prior to the October 8 Parliamentary Race.

Lawyers of Akhalaia and the three others say they are going to send the video to experts, despite the fact the Prosecutor’s Office stated the authenticity of the footage has already been proved.

The lawyers claim that the video is a montage and has nothing to do with the real situation.

The UNM, which is now in opposition, is sure that airing the video is connected with the forthcoming race.

“ The ruling power has nothing to say to its people about the present and the future and now they are rummaging in the past to somehow overshadow their incapability,” UNM member Goka Gabashvili said.

One of the organisers of the May 26 rally, that was protesting UNM governance in Georgia, leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, Nino Burjanadze, said the video once again showed the “horrible image” of the UNM. However, she said it was also “shameful” the current authorities released the video prior to the elections when they had plenty of time for investigating the dispersal case.

A member of the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia Party, Eka Beselia, dismissed the statements over the coincidence of the timing with the elections.

She said that since coming to power, the Prosecutor’s Office under the current Government had charged dozens of ex-officials and sent many of them to prison, Merabishvili among them.

She claims investigating the cases always took time.

The Prosecutor’s Office said during the rally dispersal on May 26, two people died, more than 250 received injures and more than 800 were illegally detained.

It also said the Constitutional Security Department chaired by Data Akhalaia received a 900,000 GEL reward for the dispersal that was shared between its employees.