The messenger logo

US Ambassador: Georgian Gov’t asked us to help with illegal surveillance videos

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, March 28
The United States Ambassador (US) to Georgia Ian Kelly says the current Georgian Government is “very concerned” over the leak of surveillance videos taped by the previous authorities and they asked the US for help in settling the problem.

Kelly said he was not authorised to uncover the details of the agreement, but said that the US accepted the appeal.

The US diplomat said spreading videos of personal lives videos – which recently rocked Georgia on March 11-14 - was “totally unacceptable” and was “harmful for Georgian democracy”.

“Those who are engaged in spreading the videos online know that their action is harmful for the country and with this they try to influence political situations. This incident is naturally very alarming for the Georgian Government,” Kelly said.

The Ambassador announced there is very close, daily cooperation between Georgian-US representatives as the risk of more videos being leaked remains.

Meanwhile, some ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition members and several non-parliamentary opposition members said those politicians who knew they were illegally taped should quit their positions.

GD member Tamaz Metchiauri and the leader of the non-parliamentary opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia, Nino Burjanadze, said such politicians could be a target of blackmail and those possessing the videos might force them to make some anti-state decisions.

Such claims were mainly condemned by the majority of the GD coalition, the opposition and civil sector representatives, who said such statements served the aim of those possessing and spreading the videos.

One of the latest videos released earlier this month included an inscription that “unworthy politicians should leave politics”.

Hundreds of videos reflecting the private lives of Georgian citizens were illegally taped and stored by the previous United National Movement (UNM) government to blackmail people.

The majority of videos were publicly destroyed by the current Government in 2013 after the Georgian Dream coalition defeated UNM in 2012, but a certain number of videos (apparently not related to a person’s private life) were saved to help any future investigations.

However, since 2014, several videos of a sexual nature have been released on the Internet.

One video released on YouTube on March 11 allegedly showed an opposition party leader, which caused a stir in Georgia and generated significant public backlash.

About 135 people watched the footage online before law enforcers contacted YouTube's administration and blocked the video, reported local media.

On March 14 another video similar in content appeared on Youtube but it was immediately blocked.

On March 15 the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia charged five people for keeping this type of illegal videos but the agency did not specify whether these people were responsible for the leaks.

The Government said the leak of the videos was an “attack on the Government” while the UNM opposition accused the current leadership of spreading the videos. Meanwhile, Irakli Alasania, the leader of another opposition party, the Free Democrats, said the founder of the currently ruling Georgian Dream coalition, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, stood behind the leaks.