Mtavari Arkhi TV, a channel critical to the Georgian Dream government, aired late yesterday alleged memos of the State Security Service, Georgia’s domestic intelligence agency, involving spying on the phone conversations of President Salome Zurabishvili, presidential and government administration officials, opposition and civil society leaders, a foreign embassy employee, as well as the alleged orders extending surveillance on intimate lives of Georgian Dream representatives, businessmen and clergy, including gay and lesbian citizens.
Nika Gvaramia, director-general of the channel, gave some 30-minute-long monologue reading out the alleged memos, coinciding with the sixth anniversary of the establishment of the State Security Service.
Gvaramia said some of the alleged 2020 SSG briefs implied V., one of the Georgian Dream lawmakers having an affair with E., with the SSG aiming to extend surveillance on them, while another detailed memo referred to another Georgian Dream lawmaker asking his/her partner out.
According to Gvaramia, the Administration of the Government of Georgia has also been extensively targeted. One of the alleged memos involved tapped conversations between high-ranking government administration official M., his/her assistant M. and director of one of organizations, with the SSG being aware that M. was showing interest in his/her sexual partner’s father to return to Georgia, and M. asking for help from then-Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s advisor in the return. Another alleged memo included a phone conversation of I., advisor of then PM Giorgi Gakharia with his/her sexual partner.
Mtavari Arkhi TV director also said one of the memos aimed at extending surveillance on a certain individual to expose the latter’s possible homosexual relations “with Georgian Dream representatives.”
Noteworthy, the allegations aired by Mtavari Arkhi TV included multiple cases of surveillance on businessmen, including homosexuals. One of the alleged memos referred to businessman and actor/actress paying a night-time visit to one of the hotels in Tbilisi.
„On 16 September, this year , a founder and director of [a certain business company] A., with a non-traditional sexual orientation, spoke to [his] gay partner B., asking [him] to pay a visit to [his] flat, on which the latter agreed. Aim: ensure operative-technical surveillance,” Gvaramia said reading out yet another alleged SSG memo.
Parliamentary Vice Speaker Archil Talakvadze said the allegations are “yet another fake news” disseminated by “the so called media manager who in reality serves as one of the leaders of a radical opposition party [meaning UNM].” Anyone could write down and fabricate such texts, MP Talakvadze said.
Civil.ge approached the State Security Service of Georgia to respond to the allegations. The agency declined to comment.
Conversations of President, Ministers, CSOs
One of the alleged memos referred to President Salome Zurabishvili and Georgian Dream MP Gia Volski discussing the U.S. Congressmen’s letters. The President allegedly dubbed it insufficient for the Georgian lawmakers to make individual reactions to the U.S. Congressmen’s missives.
Gvaramia said other memos included conversations of Natia Pavliashvili, Communications Director at the Presidential Administration. One of the briefs allegedly referred to Orthodox Church protopresbyter Giorgi Zviadadze talking to Pavliashvili about the President notifying him about her concerns vis-à-vis the Patriarchate. Other alleged briefs referred to Pavliashvili conversing with Georgian TV journalists.
Another alleged brief read by Gvaramia described in details a supposed phone conversation between Goga Khaindrava, film director and former UNM-era Minister and then Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani (current Culture Minister) in 2020, discussing the circumstances regarding the alleged murder plot of Mtavari Arkhi TV journalist Giorgi Gabunia.
Yet another alleged SSG brief referred to June 2021 phone conversations between Giorgi Oniani, deputy director of Transparency International Georgia, local CSO and Guram Imnadze, another CSO leader from Social Justice Center (former EMC), and Oniani’s conversation with Giorgi Mshvenieradze, former head of the Georgian Democracy Initiative, CSO. All three confirmed late yesterday that the phone conversations indeed took place.
Far-right leaders were also targetted, Gvaramia said. According to further alleged SSG memos, Guram Palavandishvili, far-right activist and Dimitri Lortkipanidze, director of Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Centre were approached by S., to discuss the presence of homosexual priests in the Orthodox Church. The alleged memo quoted Lortkipanidze as saying that people are openly talking about a certain bishop, one of priests in Tbilisi’s major Sameba Cathedral, and an abbot of a men’s monastery being homosexuals. The SSG allegedly ordered to extend surveillance on these priests.
Reacting to allegations on the next day, the Security Service dismissed aired files as “false information” aimed at “deliberate discrediting of the State Security Service, misleading the public, and sowing distrust towards the state institutions.”
According to the statement, “as part of an information warfare, a certain media outlet resorts to all means to use the existing situation in the country to attain its political objectives and further polarize the public.” The SSG called “discrediting, disinformation campaign” an “anti-state act,” concluding it “is in the interest of a hostile country.”
This article was updated at 16:30, August 3. The official statement of the State Security Service was added.