The reported detention of two former police officials Lekso Rapava and Giorgi Datiashvili on October 20-21 spurred a streak of resignations in solidarity by at least seven law enforcement officers – five of them going public with their announcements, and the two other reported by media.
Rapava and Datiashvili were detained on charges of illegal purchase and storage of firearms, ammunition, or explosives, but their defense lawyers voiced suspicions over evidence-planting and political persecution for the detainees’ support of the opposition.
The latest resignations were announced on October 26, with Junior Inspector of the Security Police Department in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region, Gocha Kvaratskhelia noting that he filed resignation to protest the reported detentions. On the same day, Saba Kukhaleishvili, working for the Security Police also quit in protest, media reported.
Prior to that, citing alleged unlawful detention of their former colleagues, Imereti Special Task Force Division Inspector, Major Roman Antia, Criminal Police Officer Jimi Gagua, and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Patrol Inspector, Major Giorgi Berishvili announced separately their resignations on October 25.
They all referred to the detained former police officer Lekso Rapava as their friend. “Persecuting former police officers is categorically unacceptable for me,” Berishvili, one of the resigned policemen, told reporters.
Earlier on October 23, Omar Arkania, another policeman hailing from the Samegrelo region quit, according to a report by government-critical Formula TV.
Before that, Chabuka Rapava, Deputy Head of the Second Operational Support Division of the General Inspection Department reportedly had also resigned in protest on October 22. But the man later with TV Pirveli cited personal reasons and the need to rest after “30 years of work” behind the decision.
The first in the resignation series was the department head in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti border police, Revaz Lazishvili, who to publicly quit in protest on October 21.
Civil.ge reached out to Interior Ministry as well as its Security Police department to confirm the identity and police affiliations of the men announcing their resignations. The Interior Ministry refused to comment, while the Security Police Department confirmed the resignation of Saba Kukhaleishvili.
Samegrelo region, where most of the resigned policemen hail from, is a traditional stronghold for the opposition United National Movement party, where the ruling Georgian Dream underperformed on October 2 local elections. 7 of the 8 Samegrelo municipalities are heading into mayoral runoffs on October 30. UNM called police detentions in Samegrelo “a revenge from the government.”
Noteworthy, some of the policemen’s resignation announcements were accompanied either by UNM member Niko Mikaia or former MP Tengiz Gunava, a former member of UNM and European Georgia parties. Mikaia said on October 25, during Roman Antia’s briefing, that the resignations are a “continuous chain” of honorable policemen refusing to comply with the “unlawful orders” of the Interior Ministry. “This chain will definitely continue,” he added.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili called the reported resignations on October 23 “unfortunate” and alleged the policemen were “either deliberately or not” participating in a “very cheap political campaign.”
“This is absolutely exaggerated and we will do our best not to leave any questions unanswered,” the Prime Minister noted.