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Video evidence and political developments

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 27
Around 2 weeks prior to April 9 the Interior Ministry has aired a series of videos which show certain people bargaining for and purchasing arms and discussing the possibility of overthrowing the Government by military means. Some of the persons shown in the videos are allegedly members of Nino Burjanadze’s Democratic Movement-United Georgia. In the video broadcast these individuals are discussing the possibility of using their newly-acquired firearms.

The Interior Ministry is releasing these videos as a series so we don’t know what will come next. Many analysts and opposition members state that the bugging of telephone conversations and fabrication of videos was undertaken by the authorities in November 2007 when they were accusing the opposition of pro-Russian activities. In 2007 the authorities produced mostly audio recordings, now they have progressed to making videos.

It is significant that these videos have been make public just two weeks before the planned April 9 opposition protest rallies. The videos clearly seek to suggest that the opposition is dangerous and is buying firearms to use at the protest rallies. Of course such suggestions are beneficial to the ruling party and Government, they are attempts to seriously discredit the opposition. Moreover there are speculations that the videos could be followed by some senior opposition figures being arrested. This possibility is much speculated about in the Georgian media.

The direct blow of the accusations was received by Nino Burjanadze and her party, as many of the “video heroes” are claimed to be Burjanadze party members, although she and her husband Badri Bitsadze, the former Chief of the Border Police, have refuted these allegations, saying that they do not know many of these people at all. When the people in the videos were first arrested almost all the opposition parties expressed their solidarity with Burjanadze and her party, however they later stressed that they condemn any attempt to introduce weapons into the political confrontation.

Many analysts agree that the scenes portrayed in the videos are not entirely convincing. Furthermore, their presentation during court proceedings would not prove guilt. Maybe the authorities don’t even want to have court hearings and will only use the videos to discredit the opposition and thus decrease the number of opposition supporters willing to protest in the streets. It will be interesting to see whether the Government brings those it says are guilty to trial, and what form of compensation it will pay them if it fails to do so.

At present the ruling party has the initiative and objectively it might probably achieve its target. More and more people are skeptical about coming out into the streets on April 9. Some are just scared of the physical consequences of possible provocations and deliberate bloodshed, while some are frustrated by the opposition’s conduct as they honestly believe that genuine videos were shown on TV. However another argument is being put forward. It is said that anger about Government attempts to discredit the opposition in this way might attract more people. It is anyone’s guess at this stage what will actually occur on April 9.

It should be said that according to expert opinion it would have been unrealistic to try and organise a coup d’etat with the small number of weapons being discussed in the video clips. However even one gunshot would be enough to provoke retaliation and mass disorder. Nobody wants to repeat the nightmare of December-January 1991-1992 when President Gamsakhurdia was ousted, a hundred people being killed in the process.

The opposition parties still plan to come out on April 9 and a lot could still happen in the 14 days between now and then. We can all watch and wait, but it would be better if we knew what we were waiting for.