TBILISI, DFWatch – The authorities in Georgia moved with lightening speed and acted on assumptions when revoking a businessman’s citizenship right after he had announced a new opposition movement.
A court in Tbilisi today continued to hear the case of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, a newcomer to politics who scores roughly as high as the ruling party in the polls. It was very hot in the session hall, and people kept complaining about the heat during the whole session.
But listeners who could withstand the temperature heard the court make the Civil Registry explain just what reasoning lay behind the decision to take away his and his wife citizenship, which prevented him from forming a political party and stand for election. Particularly, how did they know that Mr Ivanishvili held a French citizenship, apart from him writing it in an open letter?
The hearing picked up on what happened at the end of the first hearing on December 12 when during a questions and answers session one of the businessman’s lawyers, Eka Beselia, tried to find out whether the president knew which date Ivanishvili’s wife Ekaterine Khvedelidze became a French citizen.
Today, Tinatin Siradze, representative of the presidential administration said that the president didn’t know the exact date, but did know the factual circumstances.
It emerged that only one day was enough for the Civil Registry to learn all the factual circumstances in order to prepare their recommendations and send them off to the president. They did not contact Ivanishvili and his wife to find out their positions about the revoking process of their citizenship.
The Judge asked the representative of the Civil Registry, which is a third party in the case, to explain the procedure of terminating a person’s citizenship, and asked, does the Civil Registry in such cases contact the person, whose citizenship case is under review?
The Civil Registry representative explained that such a thing hasn’t happened during the last few years. The Civil Registry representative asked Ivanishvili’s lawyers a question: would it change the situation, if they had contacted Ivanishvili and Khvedelidze during this process?
One of them, Shalva Tadumadze, explained that it really would change the situation, because they would have said that the Ivanishvili couple are renouncing their citizenships of France and Russia and want to remain Georgian citizens.
Then the businessman’s lawyers reminded the court about the open letter Bidzina Ivanishvili released on October 7, where he clearly writes that he is going to renounce his other citizenships.
The grounds for beginning a process of revoking the citizenships of Ivanishvili and his wife became exactly this document which indicated that he was also a French citizen, in addition to holding a Russian citizenship. The Civil Registry claims that they didn’t know anything about this before and that it was only after this open letter they became aware of it.
Ivanishvili’s lawyers then said that there is nothing mentioned in the open letter about his wife’s citizenship, so what were the grounds for termination of her citizenship? To this question the Civil Registry representative answered that ‘usually the family members decide and do such issues together so a suspicion was raised that she also was a French citizen.’
Then the plaintiff put forth another question: If they reviewed the cases of the husband and wife, why didn’t they revoke the citizenships of the three children, who also were granted foreign citizenship?
The Civil Registry spokesman answered that there didn’t arise any such suspicions, and that he was not going to discuss the internal policy of his job.
While expressing their ideas and reviewing the evidence presented to the court, Ivanishvili’s lawyers made it clear what they think is the reason the citizenships of the children wasn’t terminated: ‘Because they are not adults and don’t have the right to set up a political party or any other political activity.’
They once again said that this is just a political game to get rid of a political opponent, because a person without citizenship can not finance a political party and is prohibited from engaging in political activities in the country.
The personal interests of Saakashvili laid behind the decision, they argued, since the release of the open letter many times mentions Saakshvili in a negative way, the lawyers said, reading quotes from the letter.
During the questions and answers stage there was a tense discussion about legal technicalities. The representative of the president’s administration repeatedly spoke of the 32nd article’s fourth subparagraph of the organic law about citizenship, and said that it applies to all citizens, no matter how they received or were granted citizenship.
On their part, the businessman’s lawyers argued that there is special paragraph in the constitution about citizenship having been granted as an exception, and about rights following from this. The debates revolved around the question of what took precedence and what law is more forceful: normative acts, presidential decrees or the constitution.
A citizenship can be granted for two reasons: if a person has special merits to the country or if the government has special interests in granting it to the person.
Ivanishvili’s lawyers say that there is no way to ignore those two reasons, which can become the grounds to revoke the citizenship. The only fact that can become a reason to revoke a citizenship which had been granted, is a personal statement of this person himself renouncing the citizenship, they argued.
Bidzina Ivanishvili’s and Ekaterine Khvedelidze’s citizenship was revoked on October 11, four days after the release of the businessman’s open letter.
The next session in the case is scheduled for Thursday 10 am.
Ivanishvili’s lawyers requested the court to postpone it until Friday, to wait for the protocol of today’s session to be ready. Then both sides would have time to prepare.
The defendants were against postponing, but the judge desiced to postpone the process for two days, citing economical concerns.