TBILISI, DFWatch–A former Georgian government official has refused to travel from Ukraine to Georgia to answer questions about a violent dispersal of anti-government protesters five and a half years ago.
Gia Lortkipanidze is head of police in Ukraine’s Odessa region, where his former boss ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili is the governor.
After Tbilisi prosecutors Monday brought new charges against four other ex-officials based on a previously unknown video of police beating protesters during a protest in 2011, and asked the former deputy interior minister of Georgia to come for questioning, he answered via Facebook that he doesn’t have time to come back to his home country and answer further questions because he has to hold a speech in the Ukrainian parliament.
Further elaborating, he wrote that he doesn’t see any point in going, since he has answered questions about the case many times before and lived in Georgia for three years afterward, without being asked to add anything.
Human rights groups criticized the punitive nature of the police operation shortly after midnight May 26, 2011, when police and irregulars encircled a camp of anti-government protesters outside the parliament building in Tbilisi, then beating and arresting them. Five died in the panic and chaos, two of which the Saakashvili government blamed on Nino Burjanadze, the leader of the protest.
After the change of government, the head of the interior ministry at the time of the operation, Vano Merabishvili, was put on trial and sentenced to four and a half years in jail, as the main person responsible. But on Monday, prosecutors presented new charges against four ex-officials, three of whom are already in jail.
Lortkipanidze thinks the reason this case is being brought up now is the rapidly approaching parliamentary election on October 8.
“I am sorry that the actions of the Prosecutor General’s Office are dictated from fears and interests of one particular political party,” Lortkipanidze wrote.
The Prosecutor General’s Office gave Lortkipanidze two months to show up for questioning.