TBILISI, DFWatch – The Civil Registry is out of time to give a written response regarding opposition businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship, his lawyers say.
On January 5, his lawyers filed an application to the Civil Registry asking to give Ivanshvili citizenship through naturalization.
The application should have been answered by the end of February, but the Registry has not answered.
In October 2011, Ivanishvili, long a low-profile philanthropist, unexpectedly declared he would throw his hat into the ring and form a political party. In two open letters, he criticized the current government’s excessive misuse of power and mismanagement of the country.
Four days later, the Georgian president revoked the citizenship of the businessman and his wife. The Civil Registry and the government explained that both wife and husband had taken up French citizenship in addition to Georgian and Russian citizenships; not necessarily a violation, but the couple had not informed authorities.
In 2004, Mikheil Saakahsvili granted Georgian citizenships to Bidzina Ivanishvili and Ekaterine Khvedelidze for special merits to the country. At that time, their lawyers claim, Ekaterine Khvedelidze was a French citizen, which later became the grounds for Tbilisi City Court to restore her citizenship.
Ivanshvili himself became a French citizen after receiving Georgian citizenship. Georgian legislation restricts ordinary Georgian citizens from obtaining citizenship of another country, and the Civil Registry said that since he broke the rules, his Georgian citizenship was ‘automatically’ terminated.
However, the Georgian constitution makes it possible to get citizenship in another way, and this is what Ivansihvli’s lawyers now are attempting. They say it’s impossible to revoke a citizenship that has been granted, and no one can take away the special merits of a person for which he or she was granted citizenship. In addition, a citizenship which has been granted gives the right to have double citizenship, which in practice means having citizenship of more than one country, not literally two countries.
Ivanishvili tried taking the revoking to Tbilisi City Court, but lost the case. His lawyers then said that they had a special action plan regarding the citizenship.
The businessman reounced both his Russian and French citizenships. He is no longer Russian citizen, while France says they will suspend his French citizenship as soon as his Georgian citizenship is restored.
Now Ivansihvli appealed to the Civil Registry to be given the citizenship through the naturalization, and according to his lawyers, the registry will have no grounds to refuse him. There are three reasons for such a refusal: if he is an internationally wanted person, a terrorist or his actions are a danger to society. As long as Ivanishvili openly had written in his letters that he isn’t going to change the government through street demonstrations, he is no danger to society, his lawyers argue.
They say he fulfills all the requirements for being given Georgian citizenship, such as knowing Georgian history and language, and living here for the last five years.
The forty day deadline for the Civil Registry to announce its decision ended on February 14, according to Zakaria Kutsnashvili, one of Ivansihvli’s lawyers. But it has not yet answered.
“The Civil Registry employees said then that they had a term to issue the conclusion regarding Ivanishvili’s citizenship by the end of the month. February has ended. So we demand that they issue a written report about Ivanishvli’s citizenship,” he said.