On 19 August, for the first time since the allegations were made, Vakhtang Gomelauri, the Minister of Internal Affairs, responded and denied former State Security Service (SSG) deputy head Ioseb (Soso) Gogashvili’s accusation that the Minister threatened him and his family.
Before being re-appointed as the Minister of Internal Affairs, Gomelauri served as the head of the SSG from 2015-2019. He held the position of Minister of Internal Affairs in 2015 for 7 months. Gogashvili was his deputy both at the MIA and later, the SSG.
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Threats Against Gogashvili and his Family
Asked whether he truly conveyed ruling Georgian Dream party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili’s threat of “destroying [Gogashvili’s] family,” Minister Gomelauri replied, “this is completely absurd.” He emphasized that he respects even the “enemy’s family” and that he has never threatened anyone’s family.
Minister Gomelauri denied calling Gogashvili in prison, and also explained that he has not communicated with Ivanishvili in months, “maybe” even a year. “I did not call him [Gogashvili], there was no communication, no threats, especially towards the family…,” he said.
The Minister noted that he has had a “normal relationship” with Gogashvili since he was dismissed from the post of deputy head of the SSG in 2018. “After that, he was in the party for some time, and he visited my family as well, after that … we didn’t have any sort of tense relationship, he even asked for some advice, which I gave him,” he added.
Asked by a journalist about Gogashvili’s motivations in accusing Gomelauri of threatening him, the Minister of Internal Affairs replied that “he is the most surprised.” “… I don’t want anything bad for his family, what happened, happened, we can see now where his behavior and his actions led him to, and I am sorry,” Minister Gomelauri underscored.
Pankisi Special Operation
Minister Gomelauri confirmed that Gogashvili was not present in December 2017, during the special operation in the Pankisi Valley in which a local young man, Temirlan Machalikashvili, was wounded by law enforcement and later succumbed to his injuries.
The Minister explained that at that time, the special forces unit was subordinate to him hence no one else could have given the kill order, which he did not do either. Minister Gomelauri also did not confirm Gogashvili’s allegation that he sent a mediator to the Machalikashvili family and said that “this is a complete lie.”
The Minister of Internal Affairs noted that he did meet the deceased’s mother, Mediko Margoshvili, albeit in the presence of the family’s lawyer, and to explain to her “as much as possible” “what happened [during the special operation].”
Minister Gomelauri did not confirm another of Gogashvili’s allegations that he kidnapped his child’s friend, and said, “That is also completely absurd, I don’t know where [Gogashvili] came up with it… You will probably hear many [more] absurdities soon…”
Meeting with Gogashvili’s Family and the “Shower Conversation”
As for Gogashvili having met with his family members in prison, Minister Gomelauri defended Justice Minister Rati Bregadze’s statement on the matter and noted that “their admission took place in full compliance with the law.” “As far as I know, according to the law, the investigator has the right to allow this or that person to meet with the prisoner…,” he added.
Speaking on the allegation that Gogashvili was taken to the shower to speak with him, the Minister stated that penitentiary institutions are not under his jurisdiction and he does not know what happens inside them.
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“I don’t know if they took him to the shower or somewhere else, I don’t know where they took him, it’s not my institution, but I know 100% that I didn’t call or communicate with him,” Minister Gomelauri emphasized and added that he does not know who called Gogashvili either.
Minister Gomelauri Prepared to Answer Questions
Minister Gomelauri expressed concern over the fact that Gogashvili had been collecting compromising materials on him and other members of Georgian Dream and that he had been claiming that “Gomelauri should be in prison…” He added that he is waiting for the publication of the records promised by Gogashvili. “We are waiting for him to reveal them,” he said.
Finally, when asked by a journalist whether he is going to answer the questions of the investigation, the Minister answered, “I am ready to give answers to the investigation if there are any questions.”
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