TBILISI, DFWatch–After the government Monday announced a ‘moratorium’ on prosecuting politicians, the National Movement criticizes it for misleading people by not fulfilling its promise.
On Monday, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili in a statement called on law enforcement bodies to avoid summoning for questioning people who are involved in the election campaign until the election is over. Only people whose questioning is an absolute necessity should be questioned, he said.
Refently, former government officials have been called in for questioning more frequently and members of the National Movement think this is in order to disrupt their election campaign. The Georgian Dream government therefore announced a ‘moratorium’ to disprove the opposition’s claim.
The announcement came after Western leaders stepped up their pressure on Georgia to be more careful with calling former officials in for questioning in criminal cases to avoid political retribution.
Such pressure began already after the change of government after the parliamentary election in October 2012, but increased recently because the Prosecutor’s Office summoned ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili. Later it turned out that it was not of so much importance to question him as it had seemed.
Former Secretary of the Security Council and close ally of Saakashvili Giga Bokeria was later called in for questioning, as was former Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava and other former government officials and others who are campaigning ahead of the local elections on June 15.
From earlier statements by government officials, it is clear that the government didn’t want to announce such a moratorium, and it seems that when it chose to still do it, this was a response to demands from the West.
About a month ago, Davit Usupashvili, Speaker of Parliament, who is in fact the second person after the prime minister and is seen as more liberal than him, said the Naitonal Movement’s accusations that detentions is a deliberate policy by the government before the election is a lie and everyone committing crimes will be punished.
He said elections are held in Georgia almost every year and it doesn’t mean that prosecutor’s office and police may take a vacation and not do their job because there is an election campaign.
“It is hard to find a year in the calendar when there are no elections in Georgia. If elections are conducted in Georgia, it doesn’t mean that the police and the Prosecutor’s Office should take a vacation,” he said in February, adding that if there is something to investigate, it should be done. And this wasn’t the only such statement by government members.
But in the last week, the government had to compromise on its position. This was the second time it made such a move. Less than six months ago, right before the presidential election in 2013, the government also announced a ‘moratorium’, after the UNM complained that their members were being called in for questioning and that it was a form of pressure on them in connection with the election. In addition, it is often difficult to see any other reason than political that these people are detained and questioned.
But the government categorically denies this, saying that the moratorium is an act of goodwill and a demonstration of its intention not to interrupt the election campaign.
UNM members however claim the moratorium was dishonest and meant to mislead Western powers and Georgians.
Davit Darchiashvili, MP from UNM, says in response to moratorium that government must timely react and release activist of their party.
“This statement makes it clear that we were right when we spoke about abnormal election environment,” he said adding that if government really wants to take these steps they must release their activists and possible candidates. He referred to detentions in Khoni and Dusheti and other cases.
The cases concern Gamgebeli of Khoni, in western Georgia, Zurab Jibukhia and his deputy Besarion Chelidze, also Zurab Otiashvili, Deputy head of the City Council of Dusheti, a region close to the capital and Simon Parunashvili, Gamgebeli of Adigeni.
Gamgebeli of Khoni and his deputy were detained on February 11, 2014 for the case the investigation of which started year and a half ago. Woods was given to Khoni Municipality and there are claims that they distributed it in population. Both of the detainees are charged for embezzling state property and abusing powers.
Zurab Otiashvili of Dusheti was also detained on February 11, 2014 and Prosecutor’s Office charged him for abusing powers in 2009. Otiashvili was thought to be candidate of UNM in Dusheti region. Before he was detained UNM members claimed that Irakli Tripolski from the ruling coalition was calling him and threatening with detention if he would continue political activity.
After such statements of UNM PM said that initiative of moratorium was misinterpreted.
“If trials are in the process and it is about sever crime, of course moratorium won’t apply to them,” he said adding that this is quite normal and civilized form.
“We want to have election campaign in peaceful environment and don’t let anyone speculate and say they had to hold campaign in noncompetitive and inequal environment.”