Georgia Intimidated: Hitchcock is no match06.12.2010 | 12:53
Why is Mikheil Saakashvili still president after all mistakes he has committed? The answer is obvious: because he keeps all Georgia in fear. A poster all around Tbilisi features the head of the country finger-pointing and asking: "Haven't you been arrested yet?" Prisons operate like Stakhanov machines. Police measures as well as death threats are widely in use. Recently the opposition has risen to defend top managers of Trialeti regional TV company publicly threatened with death by the authorities.
Mikheil Saakashvili's dossier in Strasburg is getting thicker with accusations of crimes against humanity. Claims are filed from Russia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Georgia. Recently lawyer Shalva Khachapuridze submitted some more materials sufficient to take the president to the prisoners' dock. The leader of For Victory and Our Georgia movements thinks that Saakashvili set up an anti-popular police regime.
- This situation is typical in countries where power is usurped, where there is dictatorship. We have a new poster featuring Saakashvili pointing his finger and saying: "Haven't you been arrested yet?" Half of Georgia has been to jail already. Half of Georgia has left. Now think: only two million out of four million people are remaining in Georgia! One million Georgians live in Russia. Attempting discussions over politics and public affairs with the Russian side one is accused of being Russia's agent. Agents are arrested, - Khachapuridze told GeorgiaTimes on his arrival to Moscow. - The situation is similar to Hitler's epoch in Germany.
- As far as I know, lawyers don't feel safe in Georgia either. Eric Hoister, a member of the executive council of the German Association of Lawyers, president of Bremen board of lawyers, came for a visit to Georgia recently.
The delegation he brought here came to investigate all crimes against lawyers, including the assault I faced. 200 Georgian lawyers are currently in prison. They say similar things happened in Cuba immediately after Fidel Castro took office. No other country was in a similar situation. Maybe, some lawyers are to blame. But the number of prisoners shows that the system has failed. Most prisoners were convicted under article 180 (fraudulence). They say: a lawyer promised something and went back on it. These are people whom the government wanted to withdraw from work. These are exactly the cases that the European board investigated.
- What did your case lead to? In summer you were attacked and beaten....
- There were two cases: on the assault I faced and on the damage to my car. Presently the investigation into the beating incident was stopped and the car case continues. We are waiting for the final verdict to contest it and then submit it to the court of Strasbourg. I don't have any hope since there is no judicial system in Georgia. One of the things I wrote to the court of Hague is that upon Mikheil Saakashvili's advent to power there have been only 15 acquittals over 7 years! Two judges that ruled out acquittals are now in prison, and the other five were dismissed.
According to Khachapuridze, in addition to 15 thousand prisoners nearly 250 persons are bound by plea bargains in Georgia. Sentence execution authorities keep them under control. These people can be detained for any minor offence. Thus, the regime keeps people intimidated.
Trials and prisons are not the worst methods of intimidation. Journalists often face direct death threats. In the middle of last year's opposition rallies an explosion near Maestro independent TV channel was a kind of warning. This year the authorities switched over to Trialeti regional TV company in earnest.
In October Jondi Nanetashvili, one of two founding brothers, was beaten by patrol police and then fined by the court of Gori. A while ago in a café journalists of the TV company witnessed a conversation between local officials threatening death to Nanetashvili unless the TV channel stops making critical stories.
Party of Georgia led by former ombudsman Sozar Subari rose to defend Trialeti calling to stop pressurizing free press and asking international organizations for help on his trip to Gori.
The Nanetashvili brothers are scarcely comforted by patronage of the opposition. Batono Badri , editor-in chief and second founder of the TV company, that lives in Tbilisi, not in Shida-Kartli, thinks that the authorities and police are acting against the channel and it's impossible to oppose them.
The case of beating of Jondi Nanetashvili that was initiated thanks to the assistance of the Association of Young Lawyers of Georgia, has not been solved yet. The police send notes while journalists receive new threats.