TBILISI, DFWatch–The detention of Defense Ministry officials is a severe blow to the country’s security, says Irakli Alasania, head of the MoD, who vouches for his fellow colleagues’ innocence, calling them ‘my brothers-in-arms and team-mates’.
Meanwhile a corruption scandal inside the MoD continues to resonate across Georgia’s political establishment and puts in question the unity of the ruling coalition.
“I’m confident in the absolute innocence of my brothers-in-arms and teammates,” Alasania said upon arrival at Tbilisi airport from Berlin on Saturday. “It is important for me now that my guys feel been legally protected,” Alasania said to journalists, adding that there are signs of bias against the detainees.
He said that the issue should be discussed ‘on the highest political level’, adding his intention to meet with the PM, the president, speaker of the parliament and members of parliament committees.
UNM immediately rushed to drive a wedge into the GD coalition as Giga Bokeria, the former head of the Security Council, told journalists that the case has all the features of a political intrigue.
On Saturday, the GD held a meeting of the Coalition Political Council discussing, among other issues, the MoD detention scandal. Irakli Alasania who attended the meeting, declined to comment on its results. After the meeting, council members made conciliatory statements, insisting that the coalition will not raise the issue of Alasania’s political responsibility.
Irakli Alasania, 40, who enjoys unconditional support from the US and its European allies, was alienated from the Georgian Dream political center soon after the coalition soundly defeated Mikheil Sakaashvili’s National Movement in 2012, and was demoted in January 2013 from the post as First Deputy Prime Minister and, according to some accounts, retained his ministry seat due to pressure from Georgia’s western partners.
Signs of dissonance inside the coalition intensified last week as Alasania’s Free Democrats faction in parliament voted against the GD, and alongside the UNM, in a vote regarding who should have access to the ‘keys’ of the surveillance – a major battle-ground between Irakli Garibashvili, PM, law enforcement agencies and the core of the GD, on one side, and the most of civil society organizations and civic activists on the other.
Five high ranking officials, three from the Ministry of Defense and two from the General Staff, were detained on October 28. The Prosecutor’s Office accuses them of embezzling over 4 million laris.
The pre-trial hearing will be held on December 11. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor’s Office plans to question Deputy Defense Minister Alexi Batiashvili as a witness regarding the case.