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Prosecutors office launches investigation into ‘leaked files’ with alleged blackmailing materials on clerics

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, September 15
The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia has launched an investigation into the case of leaked documents containing information allegedly gathered on senior clergymen by State Security Service agents through spying, under Article 158 (1,2) of Georgia’s Criminal Code: illegal recording or eavesdropping on a private conversation, unauthorized data acquisition using technical methods, and unlawful distribution of information, respectively.

The Prosecutor’s Office has called on anyone who possesses the unlawful recordings and documents, including the media, to cooperate with the investigation and hand over the available evidence. It also encouraged everyone to refrain from disclosing private information publicly.

On September 13, an unidentified source leaked over 3,000 documents to the media, reportedly containing blackmail information about Georgian clergy. The link to the files is no longer searchable and available on the internet.

The media outlets received a link to the files from ‘Hakim Pasha,’ titled 'Georgian State Security Sevice’s incriminating materials against Patriarchate.’ Since 2014, the nickname has been used to leak information on multiple occasions. It is still unclear whether the same individual or a group stands behind the recently released files.

The anonymous sender left a note, saying that he had spent several years working for the SSS, which he describes as ‘the biggest threat to the country, that listens to everyone and which has made the church one of the biggest evils in Georgia.’

The files allegedly contain data obtained via illegal surveillance since 2014, under the Georgian Dream government.

The files contain the personal data of top clerics. Some of the files point at alleged crimes like sexual relations with minors, taking bribes in exchange for mediation to pardon an inmate, spying for Russia, and other crimes. One of the files says that one top cleric received $30,000 from a Russian citizen for information on the Tbilisi-based, US-built Lugar lab and on the meetings of Georgian Patriarchate Ilia II.

Spokesperson of the Georgian Patriarchate, Andria Jagmaidze says that ‘it would be very bad if the information on illegal surveillance turns out to be true.’ He claims that he has seen and heard a lot of ‘fake news’ and is in no hurry to make a comment.’

Several Georgian journalists have confirmed that the alleged State Security Service files, leaked anonymously yesterday, contain briefs on their conversations with the clergy.

Eka Kvesitadze, a talk-show host of Mtavari Arkhi TV, wrote in a Facebook post that the files included details of her 2-year-old phone conversations with Bishop Iakob of Bodbe, who used to call her ‘drunk’ and tell stories from inside the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate. She added that Security Service knows everything, that people write on Facebook, citing briefs that allegedly described her discussions with journalist Ninia Kakabadze about now-dismissed Metropolitan Petre of Chkondidi diocese.

Head of TV Pirveli’s News, Nodar Meladze, editor of Tabula online media outlet, Levan Sutidze, and Formula TV reporter Nino Vardzelashvili confirmed that the files contained their conversation with different clergy.

The revelation came months after Nika Gvaramia, the director of Mtavari TV, aired purported Security Service memos involving spying on clergy, businesses, civil society leaders, and government officials.

On September 14, the State Security Service expressed readiness to cooperate tightly at every stage of the investigation with the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. Domestic intelligence agencies called on media outlets and politically interested persons to refrain from disseminating inaccurate and unverified information, harming the dignity of security officers and the agency as a whole. The Agency did not comment on the authenticity of the released files.

Recall that the Georgian Dream leadership destroyed thousands of files containing unlawfully obtained personal information collected by the UNM government shortly after taking office in 2012. A part of the files that were needed for the inquiry, were saved.

Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria says that ‘there is a high possibility that the state agencies are still illegally collecting personal data and using it against individuals.

PM Irakli Garibashvili has stated that ‘it is a dirty provocation of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party against state institutions.’ He argued the ‘oppressor, evil force’ of the UNM and ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili aims to discredit key institutions in the country, adding that the largest opposition party is in a permanent fight against the army, police, court to ‘demoralize the public and discredit the system.’

The ruling party claims that the UNM opposition party intends to release secret recordings of public figures' private lives or ‘their fabrication’ from abroad in the coming days in order to inflame tensions ahead of the October 2 municipal elections.