TBILISI, DFWatch–Several organizations in Georgia criticize the Interior Ministry for delaying the destruction of an archive of compromising videos filmed with a hidden camera.
The publication of videos in April and May showing several well-known persons engaging in gay sex caused several groups to protest against the gross violation of privacy, demanding the destruction of the material.
Interior Minister Irakli Gharibashvili claimed that all the videos were recorded during the previous government.
‘The new government is not conducting illegal surveillance of citizens, but the fear people have of being tracked should be eliminated,’ said Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili after the release of the footage.
Gharibashvili has said several times that the investigation into this is in progress and that the archive cannot be destroyed until the investigation is finished.
Kakha Kozhoridze, head of Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA) said on May 6 that the material should be destroyed as soon as possible, because it was gained illegally and cannot be used as proof.
“This kind of material can only be used if the person who shot the video is charged with illegal recording,” said Kozhoridze.
Gela Khvedelidze, first deputy of Interior Minister was detained for leaking the sex video of a George Pharesashvili, the journalist, he had some confrontation with.
A video apparently shot with a hidden camera was posted on the Internet May 4 and showed sex between three persons, two men and a woman, involving homosexual scenes too. Although the video was blocked soon thereafter, many people watched it as it spread swiftly via Facebook.
On May 12 Irakli Gharibashvili made a statement about this video and said that such recordings should be destroyed. He repeated this several times in May and named a date for when the archive would be destroyed.
Transparency International Georgia (TIG), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association(GYLA), and Article 42 of the Constitution jointly appealed to Irakli Gharibashvili about the date for destroying the archive.
“We would like to respond to your statement regarding the plan to destroy the archive of materials disclosing private life, made during your Brussels visit on May 29. In particular, you noted that the illegally recorded video material will be destroyed in the upcoming days. We express the desire and readiness to be immediately involved in this process and ask you to inform us about further steps on the destruction of the archive.”
At a public meeting May 29 at the Center of European Politics in Brussels, Ghaibashvili said that the ‘dirty archive’ probably will be destroyed no later than one week from then.
Now, when more than one week has passed, the groups think that the process is being delayed.
ISFED head Nino Lomjaria said May 6: “Every person, especially politicians, journalists and others, should have a guarantee that they can express their opinions without compromising material being released attacking them. The government can ensure this by transparently and timely destroying the videos.”
On Friday the interior minister held consultations with diplomats and NGOs for final advice about destroying the footage.
Deputy Interior Minister Levan Izoria said on Friday that the decision to destroy the footage is still in force, but that part of the archive which relates to crimes may be useful as evidence, and it will be kept and protected.
“Part of the footage is interesting for investigators, but the majority of the footage is illegally gained and has nothing to do with uncovering crime, but was used to compromise political opponents,” he said, adding that a commission will be set up, consisting of representatives from the interior ministry, prosecutor’s office, and civil society in order to study and then destroy the archive.
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