Rustavi 2 TV aired on October 14 a covertly recorded audio tape of what appears to be a conversation of inmate Mirza Subeliani with MP Viktor Japaridze of the ruling Georgian Dream party and Davit Tsukhishvili, a former official in the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons. The recording implicates senior officials in case-fixing and other offenses.
Georgian politicians have reacted to the audio recording. Here are some of the excerpts:
Reactions from the ruling party
Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze: We have already seen one unsuccessful performance and we are now offered another, which will have the same unhappy ending, because where there is no violation and no crime, no incriminating material can be made up … As for the nine years [of UNM governance], the idea about your regime was based not on kompromats and secret recordings, but hard facts – that 10000 people had gifted their property to the state, that you had tortured and killed people. This is what I call fascism, and neither of the performances can overshadow it. As for Mirza Subeliani, we have demonstrated that we are not scared of threats and blackmail and this person is in prison. We will maintain a similar approach in the future as well. If, for example, Mirza Subeliani will be threatening [us], we won’t be scared and will act in accordance with our principles. If someone will commit a wrongdoing, I promise, the parliament will not close its eyes under any circumstance.
Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani: All I can tell you [now] is that the interrogations and the investigation process have been underway. I hope the Prosecutor’s Office will inform the public about the investigation process in full transparency.
MP Eka Beselia: I am interested in the legal side of the issue … What’s important for me is the official information regarding the recording’s authenticity and legality. I have serious questions concerning its legality, on how it was obtained … If authenticity is confirmed, we can then move on to discussing its content – ask questions and clarify all the aspects. Before that, [going into its substance] is not only unserious, but also very dangerous.
MP Irakli Sesiashvili: There is no doubt that the investigation should be launched, but as we have witnessed several fabrications in recent weeks, the authenticity of the recordings published by Rustavi 2 over different issues, is questionable. Therefore, I cannot immediately trust [them] and will wait for the investigation … Of course, questions exist – we all have them, because the conversations and methods that are voiced [in the recording] is unacceptable for our government. Therefore, we need to receive answers to these questions.
Reactions from presidential candidates
Grigol Vashadze, UNM-led coalition: Georgia is going through very tough days. Today, we saw the scale of treason plotted against Georgia. We found out that we have neither the state nor the government. We saw that the state is being run by armed criminal units. We saw complete impunity in the prison system, where people like Subeliani can bring officials in prison cells for questioning inmates and attending the process of their torture. We saw that the Prosecutor’s Office is being run from outside by criminal [Otar] Partskhaladze and his armed group. We saw that the court has turned into a group of clan members, which unconditionally fulfills all orders of the Mafiosi. The citizens of Georgia saw that Ivanishvili has returned the country back to the criminal impunity of the 1990s. He restored not one Mkhedrioni, but created several Mkhedrionis (Mkhedrioni was a paramilitary group in early 1990s), which took over the country. We saw armed gangs of torturers, who kidnap and torture witnesses and force them to give testimonies in the interests of the so called authorities … I call on all political parties and civil society organizations to join us, because early parliamentary elections and victory in the presidential elections in the first round is what the opposition coalition has been aiming at from the very first day of the election campaign. Otherwise, we will turn into a country without rule of law, where institutions and constitution are no longer in place.
Davit Bakradze, European Georgia: These recordings are not about one particular case, or about particular officials and agencies; they are about the Georgian state and the future of every one of us, because if the authenticity of these recordings is proved, it will mean that we no longer have a state, we no longer have institutions and that the country is run by individuals of Mafiosi thinking and informal influence. It means that our children and we no longer have prospects of living a dignified life in this country. We all remember very well the problems persisting before 2012, when the voters fairly rejected an excessively strong state, a state that interfered in the lives of its citizens, but today, we have received a more dangerous extreme; when the state and the state institutions have practically collapsed and the country is run by individuals through criminal, mafia-like dealings guided by their business interests. This situation is alarming … The audio recording confirms that we no longer have the Prosecutor’s Office, we no longer have the investigative bodies and Georgia has turned into a country of rulers hiding behind the façade of a collapsing democracy. The Georgian society should give its response to this alarming situation and the best response is the upcoming presidential elections just 12 days from today … The society should demonstrate that it has a vision on how to advance the country and that the road to it lies through rejecting the incumbent authorities, the government-endorsed candidate and choosing the path that will push us forward and help us out of this swamp.
Shalva Natelashvili, Labor Party: Unfortunately, oligarchs have incarcerated the Georgian state in a basement (editor’s note: Natelashvili is alluding to the claims of businessman Zaza Okuashvili that former Sports Minister Levan Kipiani was locked up in a basement by former Chief Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze). As a result, justice, politics, rules and laws have been done and implemented from the underground, depending on how much money one wants to steal from the country and its people. My presidency will put an end to this chaos and return the state to the Georgian people. Unfortunately, old times have returned – illegal armed groups have been established and not only by [Otar] Partskhaladze and [Mirza] Subeliani. Other oligarchs have similar groups as well … The state has been disintegrated into feudal principalities, armed groups.
Davit Usupashvili, Development Movement: Unfortunately, what we heard today was not surprising for me and I was convinced of its authenticity without the conclusion of forensic analysis, because the system has long been heading in that direction. The Georgian Dream has to be changed, because it failed to dismantle the wretched system of the United National Movement and has continued using it recklessly. The immediate goal should be to pave the way for [early] parliamentary elections through the upcoming presidentials. I think early parliamentary elections could be a possible solution to these problems.
Salome Zurabishvili, the GDDG-endorsed candidate: I feel very uncomfortable that we still live in the Soviet period of secret recordings, when some people endlessly release some recordings. I hope that during my presidency, this Soviet period will genuinely end and we will no longer communicate through [secret] tapes.