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Probe Into Alleged Mass Wiretapping Ineffective, Watchdogs Say

Five key Georgian watchdogs on May 18 criticized as “ineffective” the prosecution’s investigation into the 2021 leak of alleged State Security Service files detailing possible mass surveillance of the clergy, civil society, journalists, foreign diplomats and politicians.

The watchdogs asserted that circumstances surrounding the probe indicated that the Prosecutor’s office “does not act in the interests of investigating the possible systemic crime of the State Security Service, and revealing and punishing the perpetrators.”

The signatories said that the prosecutors have yet to question a number of the victims of the alleged surveillance, all the whole both Prosecutor’s Office and the Court have “groundlessly refused” to grant victim status to any of those already questioned.

Without the victim status, those who were supposedly wiretapped are not able to access information about the investigative process and what kind of results the probe has achieved so far, the watchdogs asserted.

“Despite the high public interest,” the signatories said, the prosecution itself has not disclosed any updates on the probe either, including details about whether they questioned relevant State Security Service representatives.

The watchdogs warned that Unlawful wiretapping is a violation of not only domestic legislation but also Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights — the right to private and family life.

Citing ECHR case law, they declared that “when there is no ability to effectively appeal against covert surveillance measures at the local level, widespread public suspicion and concern that covert surveillance powers may be abused cannot be unfounded.”

The statement was co-signed by Georgian Democracy Initiative, Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Transparency International Georgia, the Social Justice Center, and Coalition for Media Advocacy.

Also today, 26 possible victims of wiretapping demanded to meet the prosecutors to be informed about the investigation.

The thousands of the alleged Security Service files on wiretapping were disseminated online and to Georgian media outlets on September 13.

The supposed surveillance was condemned widely by the Georgian opposition, civil society, as well as the country’s international partners.

Head of the State Security Service Grigol Liluashvili, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri all deflected responsibility for the alleged mass surveillance in late September.

The reports about the alleged mass wiretapping came about two weeks before the bitterly contested October 2 local elections in Georgia.

A month ahead of the leak, government-critical Mtavari Arkhi TV had aired a report about alleged memos of the SSG which detailed possible spying on phone conversations of President Salome Zurabishvili, presidential and government administration officials, opposition, civil society leaders and others.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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