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Opposition meets Interior Minister

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, August 13
A group of both Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition leaders met Minister of Interior Vano Merabishvili and top officials from other law enforcement bodies on Wednesday. Irakli Alasania, Zurab Abashidze, Davit Usupashvili, Pikria Chikhradze, Zurab Tkemaladze, Bachuki Kardava and Sandro Bregadze from the non-Parliamentary opposition and Levan Vephkhvadze, Paata Davitaia and Jondi Baghaturia from the Parliamentary opposition attended, as did outgoing Public Defender Sozar Subari. The meeting was held at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the opposition and Government having agreed to hold such a meeting at the National Security Council on August 7.

The main subject of the meeting according to opposition leaders was the issue of opposition activists allegedly detained for their political views during and after the protest rallies in Georgia. The opposition said they had handed the Minister a list of opposition activists and supporters who had been “unjustly” imprisoned for various reasons. They said the Minister promised to review their claims and give them a written answer in about a week.

The opposition leaders described the meeting as “positive” but said they will wait for some concrete steps to be taken before giving their final assessment. Speaking to journalists outside the MIA building, the leader of the Alliance for Georgia, Irakli Alasania, said the meeting was the first step taken after the National Security Council session. According to Alasania, the opposition and Ministers agreed that the opposition leaders attending the meeting would have 24-hour access to MIA officials so they could inform them if any politically-motivated arrest takes place. Alasania said “these two steps are steps of goodwill.”

Some non-Parliamentary opposition politicians have said there is a need to dismantle the system which creates the possibility of there being “political prisoners” in the country. David Usupashvili from the Republican Party, which is part of the Alliance for Georgia, said “these kinds of things should not be repeated in Georgia.”

Parliamentary minority representatives at the meeting have said it should bear some positive results in a week’s time. MP Levan Vephkhvadze said that he does not expect that all the cases given to the Minister will be recognised as “politically motivated arrests” but he hoped that the Interior Ministry would admit that most of those detentions were linked to the political activities of those detained. New Rights member Pikria Chikhradze said there is hope that “some signs of political stability will be seen in the country.” She said there had been “a number of” New Rights activists and supporters detained as a result of “political repression”. “That’s why we decided to take even a minimal chance of making the conditions of those people a bit better. That’s why we participated in this meeting,” she said.

Public Defender Sozar Subari said that “no concrete results” were achieved at the meeting, as no agreement was made about re-investigating the cases presented. He said that the fact that the meeting was held is positive, but it is yet to be seen what will follow from here. Speaking to journalists before the meeting, the Ombudsman had said there is “political terror” in the country and people are being punished for their political views.

Some non-Parliamentary opposition members, including former Presidential runner-up Levan Gachechiladze, the leader of the Movement for United Georgia Eka Beselia and the leader of the People’s Party Koba Davitashvili, refused to participate in the meeting at the MIA. They said that the meeting was just a PR stunt by the Government and that some “real changes” are needed instead of freeing “one or two political prisoners”.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, visiting Tbilisi on Monday, welcomed the “shifting” of the political processes to dialogue rather than street rallies. Assessing the planned meeting, Bryza said that the US administration anticipated the end of the “reports of violence”, adding that “we hope this meeting will come up with ways to address these reports and lead to the decrease and ending of these reports of violence.”