TBILISI, DFWatch – The opposition in Georgia claims the Saakashvili regime fired 50 policemen because of their political views, but the Interior Ministry denies it and says the policemen left because they refused to go along with a restructuring plan.

At a press conference organized by Komagi Foundation a few days ago, several policemen said they suspect that their being fired was politically motivated. They told how the head of the police department called them in to write reports. Then they were promised a promotion; but instead they were fired.

Komagi Foundation was established in late April 2012 to help people who have been harassed by the government for their political views. Although it denies having any links to the opposition Georgian Dream movement, it is by many perceived as being positive to the movement and its unofficial leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The fired policemen, who were employed at Tbilisi Metropolitan Police, complained to Deputy Interior Minister Eka Zghuladze, who a few days ago held a press conference to respond to their serious accusations. Zghuladze explained the firings with the ministry’s practice of rotating personnel every year, so that policemen on different levels are moved around, with the aim of cutting bureaucracy and increasing efficiency.

She downplayed the significance of the simultaneous firing of 50 people by pointing out that 194 police employees were rotated in 2011, whereas so far in 2012, the number has been only 150.

Then Zghuladze claimed that the reason these 50 people were fired was that they refused to be rotated. She also seemed to imply that they had left their jobs voluntarity, by saying that they had “left” the police force.

“The former policemen didn’t want to be part of this rotation due to preliminary political connections and they left the police. They tried to create a political scandal of this. But this attempt will remain as an attempt.”

Opposition billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream movement “think they are above the law and are deliberately trying to weaken the law and accordingly democracy in this country,” The Deputy Interior Minister said, and claimed that the case of the fired policemen is just another political ploy.

The opposition Georgian Dream movement responded today that it is not them but the government which believes it is above the law, and there are many arguments to back this up, for instance that they are amending the constitution at their own whim.

Georgian Dream spokesperson Maia Panjikidze said she thinks Zghuladze should have come up with some proper arguments if she wants to make accusations like that.

“If there is talk about a geographical rotation of police, if a person works in Tbilisi and is sent to Svaneti, he may not want to live there, and if anyone refused, what does Georgian Dream have to do with it?” she said. “Employment is a problem in Georgia right now, and if somebody for some reason refuses to work, this is not understandable, but maybe they were asked to do something that can’t easily be put into logic.”

There have been a number of cases lately of alleged politically motivated firings. Most affected are teachers, who have been fired in great numbers because someone in their family had the wrong political views or were engaged in activism. There have also been political harassment against high profile sportsmen who support Georgian Dream, and the head of the national exam center resigned in protest and took half of her staff with her, in a case with political overtones. Other public employees also seem to be at risk.