Georgian National Security Council (NSC) published on its website on March 23 information, which, it said, it had received from an opposition politician Irakli Alasania, which, the latter claims, supports his allegations that the authorities are setting up paramilitary groups.
“We are publishing the entire document in order to give an opportunity to the public to discuss how serious submitted data are,” NSC said in a statement, adding that it does not contain “any valuable information”.
It “simply lists first and last names of military and police personnel, including those of Minister of Internal Affairs [Vano Merabishvili] and Minister of Defense [Bacho Akhalaia], as well as heads of regional police units and of high-ranking officers from ministries of defense and internal affairs,” NSC said.
The file include Alasania’s letter to NSC and attached list of names of those, which Alasania claims, are in charge of armed militia groups, as well as several locations in Zugdidi and several villages in Samegrelo region, where these groups are allegedly stationed; for instance in one case Alasania’s letter states that there is a 350-stong group based in “private houses in Zugdidi” and which is led by “a former chief of security guard of Roland Akhalaia”; the latter is chief prosecutor of Samegrelo region and a father of Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia.
Secretary of NSC, Giga Bokeria, said in the statement calling the police and military personnel illegal armed groups was “utterly incomprehensible”. He also said predictions about possible Syrian scenario in Georgia “is alarming and irresponsible.” He was referring to remarks by Alasania, who called on foreign diplomats at a meeting on March 15, to react on process of setting up paramilitary groups “before it’s not too late and before we gonna have another Homs in Zugdidi”.
In separate remarks also on March 23, Bokeria told journalists that instead of apologizing for voicing "foolish" and "irresponsible" allegations, Alasania "made up even bigger foolishness to justify the previous one."
"I repeat, this is irresponsible foolishness," Bokeria added.
Alasania, one of the leaders of Bidzina Ivanishvili-led opposition coalition, said on March 20, that he possessed evidence to support his allegations about paramilitary groups. He refused to make details of evidence public, citing sensitivity of the matter from security point of view, but said he was sending the evidence involving “full information about places of location of the paramilitary groups, about their members, about armament and finances” to the Georgian National Security Council for reaction.
He also said that armed groups, which, he claimed, were being established upon direct instructions from President Saakashvili, had nothing to do with the reserve forces. “They carry arms and receive payments in cash,” he said.
Alasania told the Georgian Public Broadcaster on March 20, that he had been gathering information about the militia groups for past “five-six months” from local population in the Samegrelo region, including from relatives of some of the members of those paramilitary groups.
“I was verifying these reports; I never make a statement unless I am sure that it’s accurate,” he said.
“Saakashvili is creating these groups, because Saakashvili is afraid of losing elections and for that reason he needs such a repressive machine, which he will employ if he does not like election results,” Alasania said.