Deeper Look

Intimidation Campaign Against Opposition, Civil Society, Gov’t Critics as Repressions Announced by GD MPs

An orchestrated campaign of intimidation against opposition politicians, media, civil society organizations and critics of the foreign agents law has resumed on May 31, several days after the final passage of the infamous law. This time, Georgian Dream representatives don’t hide their involvement in this campaign, on the contrary, they openly announce the repressions and even share the lists of potential targets.

Threatening calls

Several opposition politicians said they again received threatening phone calls. Tina Bokuchava of the largest oppossition party United National Movement (UNM) said that she and dozens of people around her, including her family members, received the calls around midnight. According to Bokuchava, the fact that her family members and close associates all received the calls indicates that the state structures are involved and that callers illegally obtained personal information, which she plans to appeal to a court, as well as to mobile operators and the Personal Data Protection Service.

The same thing happened to another UNM member, Ani Tsitlidze’s mother, as well as “For Georgia” member Ana Buchukuri’s mother. The mother of Tata Khundaze, a member of the opposition Droa party, also received a phone call in which an unknown man cursed her daughter and warned her to be careful with her grandson. The threatening calls were placed also to family members of the Girchi-More Freedom party.

The Deputy Mayor of Tsalenjikha, Tamar Belkania, reported that her child received the threatening call when a woman told the child that her mother was a “traitor to the country.”

Damage to Private Property

On May 31, the walls of the offices of NGOs, critical media and opposition parties were again covered with obscenities, writings calling the people working there “foreign agents,” and inappropriate pictures.

On the night of May 31 to June 1, around 2:30 am, 30-40 “Titushky” (government-paid thugs) vandalized the central office of the United National Movement. The leader of the UNM, Levan Khabeishvili, shared the video of the destroyed office on Facebook Live. The night guards had to shoot in air several times to deter and scare off intruders. According to Khabeishvili, the men were in coordination with the police and the State Security Service of Georgia.

UNM’s vandalized office

Propagandist TV Involvement in Intimidation

Natia Beridze, a journalist for the pro-government PosTV channel, showed up with a crew at the home of Vitali Guguchia in the village in Samegrelo (west Georgia) while he was attending the funeral of a relative. A few days earlier, Guguchia’s encounter with a Georgian Dream MP Viktor Japaridze, which became a viral video on social media platforms, whereby he had given a well-reasoned explanation the MP to as to why the law on foreign agents was a “Russian law”. Guguchia became the target of an intense smear campaign by pro-government media, which accused him of clandestine operations under the United National Movement government. The accusations were repeated by the PosTV journalist, and the encounter escalated into a physical altercation between Guguchia and the cameraman.

Notably, the Special Investigation Service said it has already begun investigation under article 154 of Criminal Code – obstructing journalistic activities.

Announcement of Repressions

Government officials have openly announced that they are organizing the intimidation campaign. On May 28, Zviad Kharazishvili, the infamous Head of the Special Tasks Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a.k.a. “Khareba,” admitted to battering protesters during peaceful demonstrations against the Foreign Agents Law and said he had a special “list” of people to be targeted by riot police. “I don’t beat young people, I beat scoundrels… We have a list, I’ll show it to you. Get out, don’t film,” – Kharazishvili told a camera crew from TV Pirveli.

GD MP Dimitri (Dito) Samkharadze posted on his Facebook page a video of man leaving writings on the wall of offices of demonstrators against the law. He stated that this is a response to citizens – “Neo-fascists”, as Samkharadze calls them – in response to the writings by the citizens who have left them on some of GD MPs houses’ walls, calling them “slaves” and “traitors”. In his post, Samkaharadze stated: “You are very agitated, we know your identities one by one, your patrons cannot save you if you do something bad to any member of the Georgian Dream team!”

He also shared the list of the prospective targets. NGOs: Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA); Tbilisi Pride; Sapari; Movement “Step”; “Shame” movement; Courtwatch; Mtis Ambebi; Studio Monitor; Movement “Talga”; Civil Society Foundation; International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED); Transparency International – Batumi; Green Sector. Opposition parties: Lelo For Georgia; Girchi – More Freedom; Droa; Lelo For Georgia – youth wing; United National Movement – central office; Ahali; UNM – Batumi; Lelo – Batumi; Ahali – Batumi.

The GD MPs have also openly supported repressions. Guram Macharashvili, “People’s Power”, told journalists: “All those who protest against the adoption of the law, engage in bullying and insults, attempt psychological violence against the adopters and supporters of the law, as well as their parents, children and other family members, must be tried under the charge of espionage… They must present evidence in court that the authorities have adopted a “Russian law” and if they fail to do so, they should be tried for espionage. In addition, they must provide the court with information about whom they served, for what amount of money and with what tasks. I think there is no alternative to holding such a trial on live television after the parliamentary elections.”

Another GD MP, Davit Kacharava stated: “I am sure that this aggression will not go unanswered, you will see that a short period of time will pass and some of them will get such a response that they will hide in their homes altogether.”

Earlier, during the first wave of the intimidation campaign, the Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili announced that the Political Council of Georgian Dream has decided to create a database containing information on all individuals “who are involved in violence, blackmail, threats and other illegal acts”, or “who publicly endorse these actions.”

On June 3, Shalva Ramishvili, a notorious propagandist and co-founder of the pro-government channel PosTV, whose controlling shares belong to MP Viktor Japaridze, a member of the sovereignist group People’s Power, announced physical retaliation against the citizens shaming the MPs who voted for the Agents’ law (liberal idiots in his lingvo) when he wrote: “As you know, terror is a weapon of the weak. Liberal terror, or “Facebook shaming” and chants of “Slave! Slave!” – of even the weaker. This action, which is against the traditions of our nation, will get the liberal idiots nothing. Real verbal and violent confrontation is completely alien to the plankton bred in this herbarium or virtual environment. Therefore, the response will be very painful for them. When I say painful, I mean not only physical pain, but also fear and trembling. This “campaign” will pass and the liberal idiots will be even more deflated (if it is possible to be more deflated)”.

On June 3, Kakha Kaladze, GD Secretary General and Tbilisi Mayor, said that failure to comply with foreign agents law would lead to fines for NGOs, the freezing their assets, and ultimately the cessation of their activities. “If they [NGOs] do not obey [the foreign agents law], the fines will be imposed, then their assets will be frozen. They will not be able to function, nor will they be able to receive funds,” he said.

This piece was updated at 13:45 on June 3 to include Ramishvili’s announcement of retaliation, and at 14:59 on June 3 to include Kakha Kaladze’s comment.

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

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