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Georgian opposition financier waiting, considering options

by | Jan 12, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch – Lawyers working for Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili claim there are 44 days left for the President and the Civil Registry to decide whether to give him back his Georgian citizenship.

They also say France will only revoke his French citizenship after the businessman’s has had restored his Georgian citizenship.

The businessman’s citizenship troubles began several months ago, when declared that he wants to enter politics and run in the parliamentary election in October 2012. His unexpected statement puzzled authorities, and just four days later the president issued a decree which revoked Ivanishvili’s and his wife’s citizenships. The Civil Registry explained that both of them were French citizens, and at the same time had Russian and Georgian citizenships.

Ivanishvili’s lawyers appealed the president’s decision to Tbilisi City Court, which only partly granted the appeal, and made a decision to restore the citizenship of his wife. She was already a French citizen when the president granted her Georgian citizenship in 2004, unlike Bidzina Ivanishvili, who several years later became French citizen.

According to Georgian legislation, if a person becomes citizen of another country, his Georgian citizenship is automatically suspended, but only if this person became Georgian citizen by birth or naturalization. If the citizenship was granted by special application, however, there is a debate about what rules apply. The paragraph in the law about granting citizenship doesn’t say anything about revoking it, and some therefore argue that such a citizenship can’t be revoked.

There are two reasons upon which a citizenship can be granted: because of special merits to the country or if the government has an interest in granting him citizenship. Ivanishvili was granted citizenship based on the first one; special merits. He is a famous philanthropist, known to finance a number of charity projects, some governmental programs, building and restoring churches, notably the Sameba cathedral in Tbilisi.

But during the court hearings, lawyers for the president the Civil Registry, who were defendants in the case, stated that the law about Georgian citizenship, which is a foundational or organic law, applies to everyone. All through the hearings, while answering questions from the judge and the plaintiff, they avoided mentioning the constitution, and all their explanations made reference to article 32 of the law about Georgian citizenship.

When the Court made its final decision, Ivanishvili’s lawyers told journalists that they had a plan to restore his citizenship, which they would follow to the end.

So yesterday, at a special press conference held at Tbilisi Marriott hotel, they stated that they applied to the Civil Registry on January 5 with a request to give Ivanishvili Georgian citizenship through naturalization, because of several reasons.

Firstly, when Ivanishvili released his first open letter, he declared that he was going to hand in his Russian and French passports and wanted to remain only a Georgian citizen.

He already has given back the Russian passport and his Russian citizenship is revoked. He also applied to the French embassy with the same kind of request. However, Ivanishvili’s lawyers say that France, in a statement published January 9 through the US embassy, says that the French government will not revoke the businessman’s citizenship unless he becomes a Georgian citizen again.

The lawyers have now applied to the Civil Registry to give Ivanishvili a citizenship through naturalization and not to grant it. Zakaria Kusnashvili, one of the lawyers, says that in the second case the president doesn’t have an obligation to explain why he doesn’t consider a person’s past a merit to country and doesn’t grant him citizenship, while in the first case he has to name one of the three reasons of not granting citizenship – ‘is Ivanishvili is a terrorist, Internationally wanted or giving him citizenship is dangerous for society.’

“The list of terrorists is established by the UN, Interpol establishes the wanted list, and you cannot find the surname of Ivanishvili in these lists. The third remaining reason: public danger,” Kutsnashvili explains. “Ivanishvili could have been considered this way only in one case – If he had had a goal to change the government via revolution. But he excluded the possibility of change of government in this way in his statement on October 7, 2011.”

Georgian legislation is such that not being a citizen means that that person is not allowed to get involved in or finance political processes. New restrictions have also made it illegal to finance political parties through private companies.

Yesterday Ivanishvili’s lawyers stated that his wife is going to set up a new political party and participate in the elections in October.

 

 



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