TBILISI, DFWatch – An athlete in Georgia claims that a government minister said he wanted to electrocute him as punishment for joining the opposition.
The would-be victim, 2004 Olympic judo champion Zurab Zviadauri, joined the Georgian Dream movement of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili in May, and has since experienced a series of incidents.
Shortly after going to the opposition, two of his friends were fired from where they were working: Sopho Tsirekidze was foreigners relations coordinator at the Judo Federation; Zurab Udzilauri was deputy head of police in Tianeti region.
Later, a homes developer Zviadauri used to be part owner of was subject to a client rebellion, which he claims really was an enactment organized by the governing party.
The athlete now writes on his Facebook page that President Saakashvili’s sports minister, Lado Vardzelashvili, is calling other athletes to his office to secure their loyalty through promises of benefits — and through threats.
“He [the minister] openly told Nodar Metreveli, European Champion: ‘we would electrocute Zviadauri if we didn’t fear the American observers’. Those words make it clear what kind of government we have to deal with,” Zviadauri writes on his Facebook page.
Lately, many people have been fired for what seems to be political reasons. Most of the cases have been teachers or people working in state institutions. But one of the most controversial cases was the recent firing of the head of the National Examinations Center, a part of the Ministry of Education. The education minister explained that the reason Maya Miminoshvili was fired was differences in regards to how to conduct reforms in the education system, but there is a suspicion that the head of the center was fired for her son’s and brother’s political activity.
Miminoshvili’s dismissal was followed by mass-resignation from the National Examinations Center: almost half of her staff left in solidarity with their boss, only weeks away from the national exams. But this didn’t pose any problem to the ministry. The minister Dimitry Shashkin simply appointed the former rector of Police Academy in her place, who brought along her own staff from the academy to replace those who had left in protest.