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Ministry releases more videotapes

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, March 25
Representatives of the Georgian opposition have strongly criticized the Government for detaining 10 activists from the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, while state officials have hailed the law enforcers for their “competent work” in uncovering criminal activity.

The members of the newly established opposition party led by former Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze were detained on Monday, accused of illegally buying firearms. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has released videotapes allegedly showing two members of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia buying firearms. None of the detainees has been officially charged so far.

The Georgian non-Parliamentary opposition has described the arrests as “political repression” and an attempt to “terrorize” the opposition and its supporters. Member of the Movement for Fair Georgia Petre Mamradze said on Tuesday that the release of the videotapes was “political revenge” and an attempt to “discredit” Burjanadze’s party. Mamradze said that the Government lost the trust of society by releasing videotapes in November 2007. “This caused such distrust that many people do not believe the tapes now released are credible, and this creates a counter reaction in society,” Mamradze noted.

Mamradze demanded that an investigation be held to find out if the tapes are genuine. Representatives of the Parliamentary opposition have also called for holding an independent investigation. Christian Democrat MP Giorgi Targamadze has said it is necessary to involve international experts in the investigation. Targamadze said it should be discovered whether the videotapes are genuine or fabricated, and whether the released material has any political context and if it is related to the rallies planned for April 9. “The investigation should be objective and transparent, in order not to leave unanswered questions,” Targamadze said at the Parliament Session on Tuesday.

Unlike other Parliamentary minority representatives MP Gia Tortladze from the Strong Georgia Party has condemned the purchase of arms by the detainees. In a telephone interview with Rustavi 2, Tortladze said that “any attempt by a political party member to buy arms is unacceptable.” “The worst thing in this scandal is that the leader of the party does not deny that they are members of her party,” Tortladze told Rustavi 2.

MPs from the ruling National Movement have called the purchase of arms by opposition party members “an ordinary criminal act.” Goka Gabashviliy said at the Tuesday Parliament session that both Government and opposition should not allow some people inside the country to foment unrest. Gabashvili said he is sure that the people buying arms have their own vision of the future of the country and added that these have nothing to do with the opposition or any other political movement. Gabashvili asked law enforcers to “defend society and those who wish to hold peaceful protest demonstrations from these types of people.”

Another ruling party member, Petre Tsiskarishvili, praised the law enforcers for “competent and precise” work in uncovering “potential state criminals” and a “criminal syndicate,” and called for them to focus on people who are already armed and might have similar plans. He said stability is one of the priorities of the Georgian Government. Tsiskarishvili told MPs that Georgia is facing many challenges, including economic, political and diplomatic ones. “But we should not forget about the existing internal threat as well and we should not forget stability, which is one of the fundamental interests of our country,” Tsiskarishvili noted. He added that the Government is willing to conduct dialogue with any “healthy” political force.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia released some more videotapes late on Tuesday, this time allegedly showing members of the National Movement for Saving Georgia, Malkhaz Gvelukashvili and Lasha Chkhenkeli, purchasing arms for the April 9 demonstration. Gvelukashvili and Chkhenkeli were also detained on Monday. According to the MIA the tapes show the suspects talking about buying firearms for 30 people and the possibility of “liquidating” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. The Interior Ministry has reported that in the videotape Gvelukashvili is “talking about staging a coup d’etat and a plan to storm the Parliament building” on April 9.

Some political analysts suggest the Government is trying to create a “virtual scarecrow” before the April 9 demonstrations. Political commentator Gia Khukhashvili has told The Messenger that releasing compromising information about the opposition is designed “lower the protest mood” in society. Khukhashvili said that it is “highly unlikely” that the opposition is really planning a military coup. “I do not think that any political force would decide to start a military conflict with this sort of government,” Khukhashvili noted.