The Dispatch

The Dispatch – September 8-9: Crime and Punishment


Neck-deep into the fourth wave of Covid-19, with its unbearable, self-inflicted death toll, facing a certain economic downturn, and yet another divisive election, Georgia is rudderless in this storm. Edison Research, a pollster, says 71% believe that country is heading in the wrong direction. Worrying 25% in the same poll said they are looking at the future with indifference. Only the shock of tragedy and crime seems to pierce people’s hearts, and even then, the news promptly gets its political tint. This is Nini and Jaba at the dispatch with past days’ updates

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CRIME SCENE Police arrested one suspect in the shockingly violent death of Shanae Brooke, a 31-year-old Australian teacher who worked in Tbilisi and got missing late in July during one of her hikes in the Mtatsminda area of Tbilisi. Her body was found the next day after groups of search teams, including volunteers combed the area. The Interior Ministry says to have incontrovertible evidence – including DNA and the weapon of crime – that they hold the guilty man: a Georgian citizen, born in 1988. The investigation is held under homicide charges as per Article 108 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, foreseeing imprisonment for a term of up to 15 years. While the general public breathed a sigh of relief that the crime was not shelved, but resolved in a reasonable time, politics reared its ugly head: it came to light that the detainee was the ruling Georgian Dream party activist, which is proudly listed on his Facebook profile, some pictures with second-rank party notables included. While the Georgian Dream condemned the speculations as unethical, some netizens wondered aloud how restrained the ruling party reaction would have been if the detainee turned out to be, say, supported for UNM… While the right political affiliation serves to get one off easily, or the wrong one earns you an apriori condemnation, Georgia’s road to statehood would keep hitting the wall…

QUI CUSTODIET? But the government apparently has no qualms about keeping the prosecutors under the ruling party’s thumb. The Georgian Dream withdrew the amendment which would require a 3/5 majority in the Parliament for the appointment of Prosecutor General. The EU said the government already failed thrice to honor its pledges on judicial reform. One of GD chiefs Irakli Kobakhidze said requiring cross-partisan consensus in such a case would have been an “ugly legal practice”. When pressed by the journalists, who wondered, whether Kobakhidze held the same opinion while negotiating the deal with the opposition, with EU’s mediation, last April, he responded affirmatively, saying that he struck the deal knowing it would have to be voted upon (and, rejected?) in the Parliament. So much for good faith…

HIT THEM UP The Bank of Georgia (BoG) is out of luck – since one Badri Esebua walked free with his million after taking hostages in its Zugdidi office (he is still on the run), the BoG branches became a free-for-all for all kinds of desperate individuals. Today in the eastern Georgian town of Kvareli, an armed man took 13 hostages and was, hacks report, requesting 500 thousand Georgian Lari in ransom. After a standoff, hostages were released and the man apprehended. The ruling party Facebook pages breathed a well-coordinated “Bravo!” to the interior minister Gomelauri. Why so coordinated, you may ask!? This was a dig at Giorgi Gakharia, who led the government when Esebua slipped through the net.

PURITY OF BODILY FLUIDS Gakharia is the ruling party’s main headache as he stands in the way of the ruling party hitting a symbolic 43% of the national vote in local elections (the latest poll has them at 33%) and may challenge them for Tbilisi Mayorship (the same poll has Gakharia in a dead heat with the current mayor, Kakha Kaladze). Kaladze, who – as we wrote – made a big fuss about taking the test that declared him drugs-free has been dropping hints that he expects his competitors – and especially Gakharia – to do the same. Georgians are not fooled by Kaladze’s claims that he is just promoting a healthy lifestyle: seeing the disastrous handling of the Covid-19 crisis over the past weeks, health does not seem to be the ruling party’s forte.

The persistent pressure applied on Gakharia by both government-friendly media and the ruling party leaders may harbor some unhealthy intentions, Georgians suspect. Lawyer Giorgi Mshvenieradze suggested the GD may have some kind of dirt on their former leader, and blackmailing him with it. Or, simply, they are just smearing him by suggesting to have such kompromat. Zura Japaridze, the leader of Girchi – More Freedom, which calls for more liberal drug laws, shot his post-shower footage, mocking Kaladze’s “I am completely clean” line.

That’s the full lid for today. Join us for the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics every Tuesday and Friday!

And if you want more from the Dispatch team, know that we are working hard to give you the best coverage of #GVOTE21. Get your top-notch election coverage on live blog!


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