The Dispatch

The Dispatch – April 23/24: Business People

Lelo Party May Have Scored a Try – Top MEP Supports Namakhvani Protests – Occupation Creep Renews in Shida Kartli – Watchdog Finds Something Fishy in Poti Port – CSO Studies Judge Diplomas, Sees Worrying Trend

Signing the EU-proposed deal was supposed to begin the end of the political crisis. However, a new – moral – crisis is brewing, as the compromise text may envisage amnesty for perpetrators of human rights violations. Lelo for Georgia – a centrist outfit led by former bankers – stepped into the limelight and promises to save the day. Greetings from Georgia, the Dispatch and Nini, your operator, are back with usual updates about Georgia’s (rare) highs and (deeper) lows. Subscribe and find us on Twitter: @DispatchCivil  

WE COULD BE HEROES Leaders of the Lelo for Georgia say they have cracked an impasse: the amnesty foreseen by the EU-mediated compromise is worrying for some, since the ruling party seems bent to apply it to the policemen who grossly overstepped their marks on the violent night of June 20-21, 2019. Injured protesters, some of whom lost their eyesight to “non-lethal” bullets, threaten to sue the government if such amnesty applies to the policemen. Nika Melia, the jailed United National Party Chair for whom the amnesty is was originally intended, refuses to post bail.

More about the debate:  EU-Brokered Deal’s Amnesty Clause Stirs Controversy

BUSINESS MINDS Lelo leaders went to talk business in Brussels and seem to have come up with a creative solution: they claim to have cut the deal that would see MEPs and EU officials personally vouch that if released, Mr. Melia won’t evade justice, thus nullifying the need for his detention. UNM and Melia look favorably at the idea, the ruling party has shown more reserve but may eventually find the face-saving solution acceptable. Of course, with sufficient will, the prosecutor’s office could have just ended criminal proceedings, but if Georgia’s political actors were ready to act like adults, the crisis would not have arisen in the first place.

More: April 19 Agreement: Melia’s Release Mechanisms Under Dispute

GREENLIGHT While MEPs have been making headlines over the past weeks due to their continued commitment to helping solve the political crisis, MEP Heidi Hautala from the European Green Party, currently serving as a Vice President of the European Parliament, looked beyond Tbilisi drama and expressed her straightforward support for Namakhvani protests. “I support the Georgian Greens and the local NGOs protesting against #Namakhvani hydropower plant in Western Georgia,” she tweeted. Earlier, Turkey’s Green Party has also shown solidarity to Rioni Valley activists in Western Georgia, who have been speaking up against the controversial large-scale HPP project for months.

ABUSES WITHOUT BORDERS Occupation forces reportedly continue their creep – this time the barbed-wire cut into Takhtisdziri village of Shida Kartli region, putting parts of villagers’ agricultural land beyond reach. In 2020, the State Security Service of Georgia reported 16 cases of so-called “borderization” near the dividing line separating the rest of Georgia from occupied Abkhazia, while 60 such cases have been identified near occupied Tskhinvali.

DEEP WATERS There has been much mystery around the ambitious but troubled Anaklia port project, particularly after the government terminated the contract with Anaklia Development Consortium in 2020. Some suspected Russian meddling, others – business rows. Transparency International Georgia, the key corruption watchdog, now says Anaklia might have been halted to favor the expansion of Poti Port, which is in the hands of businesses with various degrees of linkage with Bidzina Ivanishvili.

JUDGING DIPLOMAS Rights Georgia, a watchdog focusing on human rights and the judiciary, sifted through the diplomas of the Georgian judges and found that some judges have asked the courts to verify their diplomas when the “National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement” – the key state agency which deals with confirming the veracity of obtained degrees – refused to do so. This is not the first time that the higher education degrees of top lawyers are questioned in Georgia: in 2019, TI Georgia found out that Shalva Tadumadze, Georgia’s then Prosecutor General, had enrolled in 1993 at a “university” that itself was founded…in 1994, a year later. Then again, prescient prosecutors are what law-and-order needs, isn’t it?!

That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!


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