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Billionaire’s citizenship was unlawfully revoked, lawyer says

by | Oct 13, 2011

The stripping of a businessman’s citizenship right after he made a dramatic call to remove Mikheil Saakashvili from power moved one step closer to turning into a legal battle Thursday, as Bidzina Ivanishvili’s lawyer presented five documents said to prove that Georgia was breaking the law when revoking his citizenship.

“We request a clear and specific explanation of the legal acts on what basis and in what legal aspects did the government decide that Ivanishvili is not Georgian citizen,” reads the statement written by Eka Beselia, a lawyer and well-known opposition figure.

Many had assumed that taking away the financier’s citizenship was a political decisin meant to prevent him from entering politics. But on Wednesday, the Civil Registry’s spokesperson asserted that it was a purly technical decision, as a response to new information provided by Mr Ivanishvili himself in the declaration which started it all on October 7.

Giorgi Vashadze, chairman of the Civil Registry Agency on Wednesday released a statement explaining the reason for terminating the citizenship. All citizens have equal rights and obligations and everyone is equal under thelaw, his short statement says.

“[Ivanishvili’s] statement released on October, 7 contained very important new information for us about his citizenship of another country, receiving French citizenship after obtaining Georgian citizenship in 2004.”

Under these circumstances, and on the basis of this information, the citizenship of Bidzina Ivanishvili was automatically terminated, according to Vashade.

In response, the businessman’s lawyer released a statement today, along with five documents to back up her claim that Georgia can not legally revoke the contested citizenship:

 

  1. The president’s order #484 of June 2004 about granting Bidzina Ivanishvili Georgian citizenship
  2. Georgian identification card issued on March 7, 2006
  3. Georgian passport issued on March 13, 2006
  4. Georgian passport issued on June 29, 2011
  5. An entry on the recent voter’s roll, including the local election results of May 2010

 

“The government is obliged to call upon all its wisdom and not give personal hatred precedence over law, and not use unacceptable methods for political ends,” Ivanishvili’s lawyer asserts in today’s statement.

Beselia further claims that Bidzina Ivanishvilli has not yet been handed any legal document about termination of his citizenship. According to her, every person has the rights to go into a dialogue with authorities when they are about to establish, modify, limit or eliminate his or her rights and responsibilities, following the Georgian Administrative Code. Such a person should be given the opportunity to present his own views about what is happening.

From this, Beselia draws the conclusion that if the administrative procedure has not been carefully followed, it means that its result must be annulled, proving that Ivanishvili remains a Georgian citizen.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, 55, the wealthiest Georgian and ranking 185th on the Forbes list of the world richest, October 7 made a surprising statement declaring he would enter politics and remove Saakashvili and his ruling National Movement Party from power through elections. It put the country on edge and spurred an intense debate, particularly from political those political parties and media outlets he addressed in the declaration, accusing parts of the Georgian opposition of being “pseudo-oppositional” just following the President’s orders.

Ivanishvili paid particular attention to several independent Tbilisi based TV stations saying they too were just taking their orders from the government. At the same time he offered the owners of Maestro and Kavkazia to buy the TV stations for three times their market value.

A lengthier declaration came on October 12 in which he went more into detail with his criticism of the media and cleared up some misunderstandings. Some of the open letter style text contained potentially significant revelations about the interaction between key players within the Saakashvili government right before the RUsso-Georgian war of 2008.

He also made a personal appeal to the government and particularly Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, as well as claiming he had exposed the director of the company Kartu Group as an interior ministry spy.

Attention is now turning to a live TV interview which the tycoon has said himself willing to participate in. The state broadcaster and the two cable channels Ivanishvili scolded, Maestro and Kavkazia, are competing to host the program, but no decision was made Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, his lawyer Beselia vows to fight on to preserve his Georgian citizenship, which is necessary for him to be allowed to stand in elections, fund political parties and get involved in politics more generally.

“Ivanishvili has made his choice when he made a statement to preserve his Georgian citizenship on October 7. He declared that he will give up his French and Russian citizenships and will return those passports through the appropriate procedures,” the lawyer says.



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