TBILISI, DFWatch–Police in Georgia detained 16 persons on Friday after compromising videos were spread on social media showing a well-known politician from the ruling Georgian Dream party.
The detainees, who include two opposition activists and a popular singer, are charged with keeping and distributing videos depicting someone’s private life.
The opposition immediately criticized the government, claiming that the Ministry of Internal Affairs detained the 16 people in order to hurt the previous government which held power during the presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili.
The police have not released the identities of all the detainees, but according to media accounts, two of them are a pair of sisters who are vocal supporters of United National Movement. The sisters were detained in Batumi on Friday.
A popular crooner, Giorgi Gasviani, was also detained, police confirmed to the media.
“The investigation revealed that these individuals were keeping and widely spreading through social networks and mobile internet app the video footage depicting private life,” the police press release reads.
The offense is punished to up eight years of imprisonment by in Georgia.
The lawyer of the detained crooner says that he pleads not guilty, claiming that Giorgi Gasviani received a video to his Facebook messenger and watched a little bit. He didn’t posted it on social media neither he sent it or showed to someone.
Allegedly, the videos depict Eka Beselia, a female MP and former chair of parliament’s legal affairs committee. She was once a powerful MP representing Georgian Dream but lately fell out of favor with its leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and is involved in a conflict with the speaker of parliament and members of his team, who hold key positions in parliament.
Beselia was chair of parliament’s legal affairs committee for many years but stepped down in late December, protesting the list of candidates for new judges submitted by the Judicial Council. She claimed that the proposed judges ‘were serving Saakashvili regime’, not justice.
Beselia publicly denounced the circulation of the videos and expressed her hope that apart from those who spread it via social networks, the investigation would eventually find the masterminds of the crime.
Beselia also clearly indicated on Friday that she believes the smear campaign against her is connected to her conflict with individuals who are against ‘a free judiciary in the country’, but stepping short of naming any individuals.
During the last decade, Georgia was shaken by several by sex tape scandals. The tapes reportedly were filmed secretly by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and other state agencies in order to blackmail prominent politicians, journalists and civic activists. The compromising videos were several times distributed to hundreds of individuals on Facebook through anonymous accounts. The targets usually were women politicians.
The police discovered an underground cache in the western Samegrelo region in June, 2013, which contained over 13,000 surveillance video files, amassed over the years. Out of these, about one thousand files contained footage of sexual nature. The authorities destroyed those files.
The police have not yet provided further information about who might be behind the spreading of these latest videos.