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Georgian intelligence accused of political interference

by | Nov 16, 2012

The charges against twelve interior ministry personnel presented by Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili paints a picture of a domestic intelligence service deeply involved in party politics. (IPN.)

TBILISI, DFWatch — Intelligence officers detained yesterday are accused of using computer viruses to record audio and video of opposition groups, and blackmailing a man to record a prepared statement on video and upload it to Youtube.

Former officials of the Constitutional Security Department (CSD) of the Interior Ministry are accused of illegal eavesdropping and secretly recording conversations intruding on people’s privacy by use of specialized computer programs. They are further accused of having used this material against political opponents of President Saakashvili, and also of kidnapping, blackmailing and abuse of powers.

These are accusations by which Georgia’s Prosecutor’s office detained twelve officials on Thursday evening. Eleven out of them are CSD officials, while the twelfth is a former Deputy Interior Minister who is now Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi.

Friday morning Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili briefed the press about the scheme the detained people are accused of.

He said that on the orders of the Security Department of CSD, a computer virus was created, which enabled gaining access to another computer, obtain information and conduct audio and video surveillance of the room in which the other computer was.

The CSD leadership are accused of having used this program to illegally break into the computer systems of political parites and religious organization. Such illegal break-ins were also made to a computer abroad, that of former Defense Minister Irakli Okurashvili, who in 2007 went against Mikheil Saakashvili and was forced to go abroad, and is currently living in France. A cyber break-in was also done against former Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze, who went against Saakshvili in 2008 and set up her own party. She was active during the protest rallies in 2011, which the government violently dispersed; and yet another attack was done with a computer placed in the office of the Georgian Dream coalition belonging to Bidzina Ivanishvili.

This way, CSD employees made numerous recordings through illegal eavesdropping.

According to the Chief Prosecutor, Deputy Interior Minister Shota Khizanishivli called Beka Kvaratskhelia, Deputy Head of technical Department of CSD, on September 26, 2012, and asked him to obtain various types of secret material from Georgian Dream. This material was meant to cause distrust among people towards the leaders of the coalition.

Beka Kvaratskhelia is accused of having selected conversations of several political persons; copied them to computer disks and in the evening the same day having given them to Shota Khizanishvili in the president’s palace. Afterwards, Khizanishvili entered the palace.

The next day he called Beka Kvaratskhelia and told him that he had selected appropriate conversations, which he planned to put on Youtube and make it look as if they were uploaded by Beso Surmava, a former security guard for Ivanishivli.

CSD employees registered him on Youtube and uploaded the selected material.

But there were one more crime of CSD employees before using Beso Surmava. They illegally obtained a video recording of the personal life of Beso Surmava, which they used to blackmail him.

The prosecutor says Beso Surmava agreed to claim that the secret recordings were his; because he was afraid of publishing the secret footage about himself.

September 27, Shota Khizanishvili instructed Vakhtang Bochorishvili, Deputy Head of the Second Division at the CSD, to offer Surmava USD 100 000, but in the end he was paid USD 150 000. The money was evidence of a crime.

Afterwards, Beso Surmava was given a prepared text, which he had to read in front of a camera. He wasn’t let go, but taken to the region of Adjara and wasn’t let to go home for several days.



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