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Georgia’s ex-President speaks on alleged coup in Georgia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, November 2
Georgia’s State Security Service addressed Ukraine’s Government last weekend and asked them for help in connection with the recently-released phone conversation in which threats over possible unrest and coup in Georgia were discussed.

The Deputy Head of Georgia’s State Security Service Levan Izoria stressed that the investigation had already been launched over the audio recording released on a Ukrainian webpage – - revealing conversations between Georgia’s ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, the leader of the opposition United National Movement (UNM) party Giga Bokeria, and the director of the Rustavi 2 private broadcaster, Nika Gvaramia.

The triumvirate had already confirmed the authenticity of the phone conversation, in which a potential "revolution" scenario was discussed if the judge of Rustavi 2's ongoing court case made a decision in favor of the previous Rustavi 2 owner, Qibar Khalvashi.

Izoria stated that “all measures would be applied to investigate the origin and authenticity of the recordings, and all the involved individuals will be summoned for questioning.

“The State Security Service has already addressed the relevant bodies in Ukraine for support in search of all necessary information,” Izoria added.

On this note, Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili held a special briefing, in which he called the conversation “immoral and cynical.”

“Years ago, the people from the audio recordings were responsible for the country's fate. They used to disperse peaceful rallies, robbed businesses, invaded and controlled unbiased media outlets, tortured people and damaged the state image,” Garibashvili said, emphasing that “those people” failed to realise that now there is democracy in Georgia and the Georgian statehood was stronger than it was three years ago.

The PM stressed that he had already discussed the issue with Georgia’s law-enforcement and security bodies and promised that the topic would be completely investigated.

“Our Security Service and the law-enforcement bodies are working 24 hours on this issue. All the people who were involved in this disgusting activity will be strictly punished,” Garibahsvili said.

The country’s top official addressed the public, imploring them to control their emotions and not to be provoked “despite the provocative nature” of the ongoing issues.

Garibashvili also referred to all forces “inside and outside the country” to refrain from making political statements over Rustavi 2 and let the impartial court deliver a fair verdict.

He also appealed to journalists and everyone “voluntarily or involuntarily” not to become a blind weapon of “narrow political interests”.

Garibashvili concluded his speech that his Government “fully controlled the situation” and would not let any unrest affect the country.

Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelahsvili stressed it was unacceptable that “an official of another state should try to be involved in Georgia’s domestic issues”, referring to Saakashvili, who currently serves as the Governor of Odessa in Ukraine.

In the phone conversations, Saakashvili told Gvaramia and Bokeria to make the Rustavi 2 building as a fortress, with iron barricades and armed people who should not hesitate to open fire. While discussing the feedback and the lack of international intervention, Saakashvili dubbed foreign representatives as “foreign idiots.”

Counter responses

Georgia’s ex-President Saakahsvili stressed in response that Rustavi 2 “was the last fortress on which the country’s democratic future was dependent”.

“You should not be surprised that I appeal to all to defend the fortress. If there will be a need to physically defend the freedom of speech we should be ready for this.

“The provincial dictator [referring to Georgia’s former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili] will not even refrain from shooting his own people,” Saakashvili wrote on his Facebook page.

On this note, Gvaramia said that no media outlet was capable of carrying out a revolution.

The Rustavi 2 news service made a special statement, saying that they distanced themselves from any violation of the law and in case of any confrontation, they would hold the Government responsible. They also appealed to the Government to state how the recordings were obtained and why they had not been released immediately after their acquisition.

Members of the opposition UNM accused the Government of illegal surveillance.

Opposition comments

The head of the parliamentary opposition Free Democrats (FD) party Irakli Alasania appealed to Saakashvili to “stand away from Georgia”.

“He failed to erect barricades in 2008 during the Russian-Georgian War, when it was really necessary and ran from the battlefield as everyone knows,” the opposition leader said.

Alasania stated that the audio recordings proved Saakashvili’s real attitudes towards Georgia.

US embassy comment

The Embassy of the United States in Georgia has released a special statement over the issue.

“The U.S. Embassy continues to follow events in Georgia very closely. While we cannot authenticate the recently-intercepted conversations, we believe it is unacceptable for anyone to advocate violence in politics. Such assertions have no place in a democratic society.

We applaud the statements from the Prime Minister, as well as from opposition leaders, calling for calm and restraint. While these statements are important, what is needed is dialogue, and a widening, not a restricting, of the political and media space,” the Embassy said.