Headlines from Television News:
- Nino Burjanadze, Georgia’s acting president met with students of the Tbilisi Ivane Javakhishvili State University (TSU) earlier this afternoon. Talks were held on various problems the university students face. Burjanadze also commented on the upcoming presidential elections to be held on January 5, 2008 in Georgia as part of her meeting with the university professors. She said the opposition was confident that the elections would be rigged. However, “The opposition’s statements about possible rigging of elections are groundless,” Burjanadze claimed.
- The United States’ Senate has made a special resolution about Georgia’s upcoming snap presidential elections scheduled for January 5, 2008. The Senate calls upon George W. Bush, US President to talk to Georgian political leaders about the importance for holding of democratic elections. The US Senate believes that the US president should openly express his viewpoint and support for fail and free elections. The resolution also underlines that the elections should be held without the government’s interference and that the mass media be able to openly cover the ongoing processes.
- One of the leaders of Georgian opposition from Republican Party, Mr. Levan Berdzenishvili made a reference to an ethnic origin of Mr. Matyas Eörsi, member of the Monitoring Committee of PACE, noting him as a "Hungarian Jew" in a live TV interview. “I know Georgia very well because I was the rapporteur for its accession to the Council of Europe, and I can say that such statements have nothing to do with Georgia as I know it. The great majority of Georgians are tolerant people, and they do not need to be urged to reject such intolerant and racist statements. The gentleman in question has only damaged his own reputation and his party's reputation. But this does not mean that such outbursts should be taken lightly. Politicians must be accountable for what they say and for the example they set to other people” – Mr. Terry Davis, Secretary General, Council of Europe, responded to Mr. Berdzenishvili’s remarks.
- Shalva Natelashvili, presidential candidate of Georgia’s Labor Party promises 500-GEL salary to teachers. Natelashvili held a press conference in front of the Tbilisi 1st Public School this afternoon and criticized various reforms undertaken by the Georgian Education Ministry. The presidential candidate said teachers’ salaries would be approximated to that of judges and that the Georgian court would be free of corrupted judges if was elected president. Natealshvili also pointed out that he would seek for funds for allocation of increased salaries in the pockets of former Georgian president and his ministers.
- Gia Maisashvili, presidential candidate representing the Initiative Group said he sought for holding debates with every presidential candidate, who will be standing in the snap presidential elections of January 5, 2008. Maisashvili claimed he believed the electorate had every right to be familiar with programs and abilities of all candidates. He also said he was ready to hold negotiations with existing electoral headquarters about formats of possible future debates.
- Military officers of the 310th checkpoint of the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Forces stationed in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone, physically assaulted journalists and cameramen of the Georgian Public Broadcasting (GPB) and TV Company “Mze” earlier this afternoon. Peacekeepers also destroyed TV cameras belonging to these TV stations. The incident occurred after the journalists attempted to cross the Enguri Bridge in the breakaway region to shoot brochures with the inscription “We Will return.” Russian Peacekeepers released the detained journalists only after the Georgian law enforcers became engaged in negotiations. During an emergency briefing held this afternoon, Davit Bakradze, Georgia’s State Minister for Conflicts Resolution denounced the incident. He also demanded immediate punishment of those Russian officers, who participated in beating up of journalists, and launching of full investigation into the case.
Revised Draft 2008 Budget in ‘Next Few Weeks’
December 14, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge ; www.messenger.com.ge; Black Sea Press; Prime News
A revised draft of the 2008 state budget will be submitted to Parliament for consideration “in the next few weeks,” Nika Gilauri, the finance minister, told lawmakers on December 14. The government, headed by former Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli, submitted the draft 2008 budget to Parliament for consideration in October. New Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, however, said after his nomination was approved on November 22, that the initial draft needed revision to make it “more socially oriented.” “Many things have changed since October and the government’s course has also changed… so the draft budget for next year will be presented in the next few weeks,” Finance Minister Gilauri said in Parliament. The budget for the new fiscal year must, in accordance with the law, be approved by Parliament before the end of the calendar year. PM Gurgenidze said in an interview with Imedi TV late on December 13 that his cabinet planned to allocate “an additional GEL 300 million for the government’s new social initiatives.” Earlier he also said that defense spending cuts were on the cards. He did not, however, give details.
November Unrest Cost Economy USD 500 mln – PM
December 14, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
The Georgia economy lost at least USD 500 million as a result of the November 7 unrest, Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze said on December 13. “We should all understand that because of recent developments our economy suffered to the tune of half a billion U.S. dollars,” Gurgenidze said. Gurgenidze was speaking in a live interview on an Imedi TV late night political talk show, On the Air. The prime minister pointed out that an additional GEL 300 million would be spent on “the government’s new social initiatives” to help root out poverty. “Georgia without poverty” is a major slogan of Mikheil Saakashvili’s re-election campaign, with the government increasingly emphasizing its commitment to tackling socio-economic problems, particularly since the November 7 events. Gurgenidze, who was approved as Prime Minister on November 22, said that the cabinet could have allocated even more, at least another GEL 500 million, for social assistance programs, if there hadn’t been political turmoil and resulting economic loss.
Georgian Prime Minister: Maintaining One-digit Inflation Rate Is Achievable In Georgia In 2008
December 14, 2007; Source: Prime-News Business
A real direction for maintaining one-digit inflation rate in Georgia in 2008 is increase of interest rates on deposit certificates, Lado Gurgenidze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, stated at the Cabinet Meeting on Thursday. “The National Bank of Georgia (NBG) is headed by competent people. Unfortunately we do not have a fiscal berket for 2008. This will be the proficient budget starting from 2099,” the Prime Minister stated. According to him, the NBG will play the leading role in struggle against increasing inflation in 2008. David Amaglobeli, the acting President of the NBG, stated at the press conference on November 29 that the inflation rate would be preserved on one-digit level in 2008.
The Government Keeps Concealing The Real Scale Of Inflation In The Country – Papava
December 14, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press
The Government of Georgia keeps concealing the real scale of inflation in the country. Professor Vladimer Papava, independent MP of Georgia, declared about it to BLACK SEA PRESS. “If the annual inflation index in Georgia does not exceed 30-40% in 2008, one can say that Georgia is “saved”, - Vladimer Papava declared. He noted that regardless statements of the authorities that the current inflation index made 11.2%, it was not true that was evident to everybody. “Current inflation makes 25-30%. If we bear in mind that not only the presidential elections, but the parliamentary ones as well as are upcoming, the inflation rate will grow, because the social support will be continued during the period of the election campaign. If the annual inflation index does not exceed 30-40%, we can congratulate each other with rescue of Georgia”, - the MP declared.
The Government Of Georgia Announced Start Of The Program For Support To Mothers From Vulnerable Families
December 13, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press
The Government of Georgia passed the resolution on launching since 21 December of the End State Program “Dignified Start”. Lado Gurgenidze, Prime Minister of Georgia, declared about it today at the joint press conference with businessmen. As planned, lump-sum grant per newborn baby will be paid under the program to vulnerable families. It was noted that the initiative was scheduled for the next five years. As planned, voucher will be issued to parents of a newborn. According to the information available, 15,000 babies are born in Georgia in the families with financial problems. Georgian businessmen allotted GEL 5 million for the purpose, while the Government declared that it would pay twice more – GEL 10 million. According to Lado Gurgenidze, the Program was to be launched on 1 January, but the businessmen expressed wish to do it earlier. The Program starts on 21 December.
UN Carried Out The Assessment Of The Impact Of Potential Free Trade Agreement
December 14, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press; Prime-News Business
Presentation of the Assessment of the Impact of Potential Free Trade Agreement between Georgia and the European Union (EU) was held at Tbilisi Marriott Hotel. The research was carried out with support of the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Ministry of Economic Development of Georgia. The research refers to potential influence of the Agreement on the economies of Georgia and the EU. The Assessment includes recommendations to Georgia for improvement of the rate of economic growth in the country. The document reads that the Free Trade Agreement means full-value commercial partnership of Georgia with the EU and strengthening of the unique commercial position in the region. According to the research, Georgia must develop the reforms, while the juridical reform and that of the high education field should be in focus of attention. Tamar Kovziridze, Minister of Economic Development of Georgia, said that entering in the Free Trade Agreement by Georgia and the EU alongside with increasing of trade turnover would support in attraction of direct investments as well as would be in favour of domestic production in all sectors. Under frames of the presentation, UNDP and the Ministry of Economic Development of Georgia signed Agreement on implementation of the new project. Large-scale educational program will be implemented for staffs of the Foreign Trade and International Economic Relationships Department of the Ministry under the project of the total cost of $70,000. The project is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency SIDA. Let us remind that the European Union granted since 1 January 2006 important preferences (duty and quota-free access) to an additional 15 vulnerable developing countries that had implemented sustainable development and good governance policies under the ‘GSP+’ incentive. The preferences were granted to those developing and vulnerable countries, which had ratified 23 of the most important international conventions relating to core political, human and labor rights. In addition, GSP-covered exports from that country must also represent less than 1% of total EU imports under GSP. EU “GSP+” is in force from 1 January 2006. It will operate till 2008. Duty-free access or a tariff reduction will cover about 7200 products, including wide spectrum of Georgia’s export – nuts, tea, various drinks, etc. Wine is beyond the preferences under GSP+. The foreign trade turnover of Georgia with the 27 countries of the European Union (EU) for the 10 months of 2007 made 1 billion 440.5 million dollars, or by 33.6% more than during ten months of the previous year. Export totaled 226.4 million dollars (by 25.8% more), and import – 1 billion 214.1 million dollars (by 35.1% more). Share of the EU in the total foreign trade turnover of Georgia makes 28.4%.
Fifiteen Georgian Banks Included In the List Of 1000 CIS Largest Banks
December 14, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press
Fifteen Georgian commercial banks are included in the list of CIS 1000 largest banks after results of the first half of 2007. The rating prepared by the centre of economic analysis Interfax-TSZA was published in the Russian newspaper Kommersant-Bank. The largest in Georgia bank - Bank of Georgia occupies 110th place with the total cost of the assets $1,079.8. The bank is the 66th in CIS according to the amount of own capital ($227.1 million). TBC-Bank is the 135th (assets of 766.8 million) and the 129th (own capital $97.5 million); VTB-Georgia – 244th (297.3 million) and 321st ($33.7 million); Republic Bank – 258th ($284.6 million) and 285th ($39.5 million); ProCredit Bank – 264th ($269.4 million) and 242nd ($45.0 million). Cartu Bank is the 310th in CIS with total assets of $217 million, while the People’s Bank is 456th ($122 million). Standard Bank was the 566th in CIS as of July 1 2007 with assets of $89.0 million and 771st with own capital $9.4 million. BTA Silk Road Bank: 621st ($77.0 million) and 462nd ($18.7 million); Basis Bank: 756th ($53.4 million) and 748th ($9.7 million); Investbank: 960th ($19.4 million) and 855th ($7.9 million). Taoprivatbank: 973rd ($15.8 million) and 813th ($8.6 million); Agroinvestbank: 579th ($14.7 million) and 600th ($13.1 million); Georgian branch of the Azerbaijani bank Caucasus Development Bank: 992nd ($8.9 million) and 884th ($7.3 million); Tetri Bank re-branded as the First British Bank: 995th ($8.2 million) and 867th ($7.6 million). Worth mentioning, 19 commercial banks including 2 branches of the foreign ones are operating in Georgia. The rating includes a fact worth attention: Georgian banks have better ratings according to the own capital than those according to the total assets. Standard Bank is the exception. The first 100 places under the rating are occupied by the banks of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Total assets of cost of $1.2 billion is some kind of “minimum number of points” for the first 100 best banks in CIS. Sberbank (Savings Bank) of Russia is the largest one in CIS (assets of $166,063.5 million). Gazprombank ($45,786.5 million) and VTB Bank ($40,543.8 million) are following. The largest bank of Kazakhstan Kazkommerzbank is the 4th with total assets of $22,816.5 million. The largest bank in Ukraine Privatbank is the 17th with total assets of $8,519.2 million. International Bank of Azerbaijan is the 51st with total assets of $2,560.3 million. The largest bank in Armenia HSBC Bank Armenia is 287th with total assets of $237.6 million.
German KfW Allocated USD 16 Million Credit To Georgian Bank “Republic”
December 14, 2007; Source: Prime-News Business
Georgian commercial bank “Republic” and the Credit Bank for Reconstruction and Development of Germany (KfW) have signed an agreement on opening of a USD 16 million credit line for the Georgia bank, Prime-News Business was told at Bank “Republic”. According to the Bank, the credit will be allocated in two tranches each worth USD 8 million. The first tranche will be allotted for 5 years, the second – for 10 years. The first tranche will be used for re-financing small and medium-sized business, while the second – for funding long-tem mortgage credits. Bank “Republic’ intends to carry out several more projects in order to attract funds from international financial organizations in the near future.
Three Weeks Before Elections Mikheil Saakashvili Leads in Rating of Candidates for Post of President- Poll
December 14, 2007; Source: Black Sea Press
Mikheil Saakashvili leads among candidates for the post of President of Georgia at the special elections on January 5. Results of the poll with participation of 13 thousand people carried out by business-consulting group BCG testifies to such state of affairs. BCG company prepared the poll on the order of Saakashvili’s headquarters. The poll was held from December 2 till December 12 on the whole territory of Georgia. According to results of the sociological poll Saakashvili got 61.1 % of votes, Candidate from the United opposition Levan Gachechialdze - 5.2%, 2.9% of participants of the poll are ready to vote for businessman Arkadi (Badri) Patarkatsishvili, 1% of respondents are ready to give their votes for leader of the Labor party Shalva Natelashvili. Leader of the party “New Rights” David Gamkrelidze got 0,9% of votes, leader of the Party of Future Giya Maisashvili – 0.4%, 0.3% of participants of the poll will vote for “others” - leader of the movement “Imedi” Irina Sarishvili. 29.5% of respondents do not know whom to vote for. 75.1% of respondents answered positively the question whether you will go to the elections on January 5 or not. The previous poll was held by the company at the end of the last month – from November 16 till November 29. Saakashvili got 54.5% of votes, Levan Gachechiladze – 15.5%, Arkadi (Badri) Patarkatsishvili – 14.5%, David Gamkrelidze – 6.4%, Shalva Natelashvili – 5.6%, Giya Maisashvili – 3.5%. Representatives of the opposition protest against results of the polls carried by BCG, they say that they are ordered and do not reflect a real picture of the public opinion.
Opposition Slams Voters List
December 14, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
Opposition renewed on December 14 attacks on the Central Election Commission for, what they call it, artificially inflating voter lists to rig the elections. The total number of registered voters is 3,372,179, according to the CEC. Opposition, however, compares these figures to the number of elections registered during the 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections – over 2.2 million. There were 3.2 voters registered ahead of the 2006 local self-governance elections. “Of course [this increase in number of voters] triggers doubt that the voter lists were deliberately falsified,” MP Valery Gelbakhiani, representing the presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili’s campaign, said on December 14. “The authorities are deliberately rigging and fabricating voter lists.” “Population in Georgia is declining, but the number of voters has increased by one million,” Giorgi Gugava, Labor Party leader and presidential candidate Shalva Natelashvili's campaign manager, said at a news conference on December 14. “The so called ‘dead souls’ and fabricated names were included in the voters lists in order to organize merry-go-round in favor of Saakashvili on the polling day.” Earlier this week Davit Bardavelidze and Nino Goguadze, members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) from the Freedom and Conservative parties, respectively, have also questioned figures announced by the CEC. Both parties are members of the nine-party opposition coalition, which backs Levan Gachechiladze for the presidency. The CEC, however, strongly denies allegations. CEC chairman Levan Tarkhnishvili said it was absolutely wrong to compare voters list of 2004 with the current one. Voters list in 2004 only included those who actually turned up at the polling stations to register themselves, which was not the actual number of voters. The number consequently increased after verification process of voter lists, he said.
The last President of Georgia?
December 14, 2007; Source: www.messenger.com.ge
This is the first in the Messenger’s series of profiles of the seven presidential candidates.
A 43-year-old former businessman and long-time political figure, Levan Gachechiladze, the joint candidate of the nine-party opposition coalition, promises to be Georgia’s final president if he is elected to the office in January. Gachechiladze drew attention with his fiery speeches to the crowd on September 28, when thousands rallied in front of parliament to protest the controversial arrest of ex-minister and would-be opposition leader Irakli Okruashvili. He was a prominent figure in the opposition coalition forged that day, the United National Council, taking to the stage once again to rally anti-government demonstrators at the mass November 2 rally. He was the first to declare a hunger strike, demanding the resignation of then-president Mikheil Saakashvili. He got his wish in letter, but not in spirit, when Saakashvili stepped down from the presidency weeks after the government violently dispersed the lingering protestors on November 7, plunging the capital into crisis. Saakashvili is now running for reelection on January 5. Though Saakashvili announced the snap presidential election on November 8, it took the United National Council days to settle on a joint candidate for president. (The compromise pick didn’t please all coalition members—the Labor Party left the coalition acrimoniously by nominating their leader, Shalva Natelashvili, for the presidency before the coalition officially announced a choice.) Gachechiladze was chosen as their presidential candidate, coalition leaders said in the November 12 press conference announcing his candidacy, precisely because he does not want to be president. If elected, he promises to transform the country into a parliamentary republic and then resign. An independent streak and limited ambitions Gachechiladze has not been a member of any political party since he left what is now known as the New Rights, the party he co-founded in 1991 with friend—and now, competitor—Davit Gamkrelidze.
Patarkatsishvili Insists on Security Guarantees
December 14, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge; The Voice of America ; www.messenger.com.ge
Business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili will return to Georgia to launch his presidential election campaign only if additional security guarantees are given by the authorities, a Patarkatsishvili campaign official said on December 14. MP Valery Gelbakhiani, representing the Patarkatsishvili campaign, said at a news conference that Patarkatsishvili had planned to arrive in Tbilisi on December 14, but “because the authorities stubbornly refuse to create appropriate conditions for the candidate to run his campaign,” his arrival had been postponed. Patarkatsishvili currently spends most of his time between London and Israel. Although the Georgian General Prosecutor’s Office suspects Patarkatsishvili of conspiring to overthrow the government, he has immunity as a presidential candidate. The Central Election Commission (CEC) can, however, remove this immunity if prosecutors provide justified reasons for doing so. The authorities have already refused to grant any additional guarantees to Patarkatsishvili, arguing that he, like any other candidate, already has immunity. Justice Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said additional security guarantees could legally not be offered, and the demand for them was, in any case, no more than a Patarkatsishvili "pre-election stunt." The Patarkatsishvili campaign specifically wants a public statement from either Acting President Nino Burjanadze or the General Prosecutor’s Office, guaranteeing that the business and media tycoon would not be arrested. Although the government maintains such a guarantee is legally impossible, a similar guarantee was actually given to opposition presidential candidate Shalva Natelashvili, the leader of the Labor Party. Natelashvili, following the November unrest, had faced charges of espionage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. Before stepping down as President, Mikheil Saakashvili, however, said on November 10 that Natelashvili would not be arrested and he could freely run for the presidency. On the same day, the General Prosecutor’s Office, having previously said the Labor leader would be charged, softened its stance, saying investigators only wanted to question Natelashvili as a witness. He was, they said, no longer a suspect. Natelashvili subsequently came out of hiding and announced his intention to run for the presidency. In an interview with the Georgian daily Rezonansi (Resonance) on December 14, MP Gelbakhiani said Patarkatsishvili wanted a similar guarantee.
IMEDI TELEVISION REOPENS AMID GEORGIA’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN
December 13-14, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge; Eurasia Daily Monitor
Georgia’s pro-opposition Imedi Television resumed broadcasting its political programs on Wednesday, December 12. The authorities had temporarily closed Imedi TV on November 7 as part of a state of emergency. The channel had instigated unlawful actions against state authorities during the November 2-7 opposition rallies through inflammatory broadcasts. Often misperceived outside Georgia as independent television outlet, Imedi TV is a fully owned channel of Badri Patarkatsishvili in his triple role: Georgia’s wealthiest businessman, presidential candidate, and sponsor of an alliance of radical opposition groups pressing for regime change. Imedi’s reopening leaves this multiple conflict-of-interest situation unresolved and potentially destabilizing to Georgia. Imedi TV will influence not only the presidential election campaign leading up to the January 5 balloting, but also its aftermath. Anticipating that a majority of voters will reelect Mikheil Saakashvili as president, opposition groups are already claiming that the election will be rigged, and they are openly calling for protests in downtown Tbilisi to force regime change the next day, January 6. The channel’s director for political programs, Giorgi Targamadze, welcomed the reopening of Imedi TV as a “democratic step” by the authorities, but in the same statement he charged that Saakashvili and the Georgian government have “since 2003 carried out a process of Putinization … [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s rule has been established in Georgia” (Radio Imedi, December 8). Such rhetoric seems to presage a continuing heavy bias in the channel’s coverage of political events. Targamadze formerly headed the Tbilisi parliamentary group of the party of Aslan Abashidze, the pro-Moscow local dictator of Ajaria until 2004. He also headed Abashidze’s television channel there. Since November five Imedi journalists, including star talk show hosts Inga Grigolia and Eka Khoperia, have left Imedi for other media outlets, with Grigolia explaining that she had decided to leave Imedi after Patarkatsishvili had unveiled his political agenda. Technically, on December 3 Georgia’s Acting President Nino Burjanadze (chair of parliament and interim head of state during Saakashvili’s presidential candidacy) initiated the procedure for reopening Imedi TV, “despite the fact that the channel is owned and controlled by a presidential candidate [Patarkatsishvili]” (Civil Georgia, December 4). The state asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to consider lifting the measures taken as part of the investigation into Imedi’s role in encouraging unlawful actions on November 2-7. In turn, the Prosecutor General asked the National Communications Commission to cancel the three-month suspension of Imedi’s broadcasting license and the Tbilisi City Court to lift the sequester on Imedi’s property. The license and the property were returned on December 5 and 6, respectively. Full resumption of broadcasting has taken another week to prepare, due to equipment damage inflicted when security police seized the building on November 7. State authorities have asked Imedi management to provide a list of damaged or lost equipment for financial compensation. According to Burjanadze and other officials, concerns persist that Imedi TV could again encourage unrest, but the risk appears to have decreased substantially during recent weeks. Burjanadze, National Security Council Secretary Kakha Lomaia, and other officials have explained in dialogues with Georgian journalists the dilemma that the state leadership faced on November 7 in declaring a state of emergency and taking Imedi TV off the air…
TV Watchdog Set Up
December 14, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
A media watchdog group, led by Polish activist-journalist Adam Michnik has been set up to monitor Georgian broadcasting standards and ethics for the next two months. Along with Michnik himself, the group will also include Alexander Rondeli, the president of Tbilisi-based think-tank Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS); Ghia Nodia, head of Tbilisi-based think-tank Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (both Rondeli and Nodia are also board members of the Georgian Public Broadcaster); Zviad Koridze, a journalist; Lasha Tugushi, the editor-in-chief of the daily Rezonansi newspaper; Davit Paichadze, head of the journalism department at Tbilisi State University; Nata Murvanidze, an actress, and academic Levan Khetaguri. Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on December 13, Michnik said that the group would focus on monitoring appeals for violence, hate speech and slander. Michnik said, however, that the group wouldn’t necessarily limit itself to these three issues. “We may also discuss from time to time issues related to television station ownership,” he added. The group’s recommendations will not be legally binding. Michnik also said that the group would need about an hour and a half of Georgian Public Broadcaster airtime once a week to provide its findings to the public. Michnik said he himself would not participate in the proposed TV discussions. “Georgians are like the Poles,” he said. “We don’t like it when some foreigner on TV tells us what to do.” Michnik was asked by the European Union and the United States last month to mediate in resolving the Imedi TV impasse, following the station’s closure by the authorities at the time. At the end of his mission on December 1 Michnik issued a tough-worded warning to the Georgian authorities, setting a one-week deadline for the resumption of Imedi broadcasts. The legal impediments blocking Imedi’s reopening were lifted within a week, with the station actually resuming broadcasts on December 12. Michnik said the development was “a very positive signal sent from Georgia to the rest of the world.” He added that it was “a very good day for Georgian democracy.”
GEORGIA'S EX-DEFENSE MINISTER OFF POLITICAL RADAR
December 13, 2007; Source: EurasiaNet.Org
Until recently, he was the cause of constant controversy. But with the start of Georgia’s presidential campaign, the fate of former defense minister Irakli Okruashvili, now under arrest in Germany, has largely dropped off the country’s political radar. Okruashvili was arrested in Berlin on November 27 at Georgia’s request after he failed to return to Tbilisi for trial on a range of criminal charges. He remains in custody in the German capital, pending a court decision on the Georgian government’s extradition petition. A request for political asylum filed by Okruashvili before his arrest is also outstanding. Speaking with reporters in Tbilisi on December 12, defense attorney Eka Beselia stated that a decision on asylum should be forthcoming “within a few days.” “I am sure that the German court that will have all documents and proof about what kind of persecution Georgia’s government waged against Okruashvili,” Beselia, who recently returned from Germany, said. “The demand about extradition won’t be satisfied as there is an obvious political persecution and in such cases European convention prohibits extradition.” Okruashvili’s defense team must prove that the former minister will face mistreatment on political, religious or ethnic grounds if he returns to Georgia. If political asylum is granted, Okruashvili would have the right to live for three years in Germany. Meanwhile, a German court has until January 6, 2008 -- the day after Georgia’s presidential election -- to rule on the extradition case. The Georgian General Prosecutor’s Office states that it has already submitted the necessary documents to Germany via Georgia’s embassy in Berlin. Parliamentarian Giga Bokeria, an influential member of the ruling United National Movement Party, argues that the Georgian government can easily prove the case for Okruashvili’s extradition. “Okruashvili was released on bail [from prison in Georgia] and had permission to leave Georgia,” Bokeria said about Okruashvili’s November 1 departure from Georgia, officially for medical reasons. “I think it was the right decision of the General Prosecutor’s Office, but, after that, he, unfortunately, didn’t appear in court. … I do not think there is any basis for denying his extradition.” The trial against Okruashvili in absentia on charges of extortion, money laundering, negligence and abuse of office started in mid-November. Meanwhile, members of Okruashvili’s Movement for a United Georgia are gathering signatures for a petition against his extradition to Georgia and have organized protests outside the German embassy in Tbilisi. Nevertheless, the issue of his status has largely vanished from opposition messages heard on the campaign trail. Leaders of the National United Opposition Council, a nine-party coalition that staged a protest in late September against Okruashvili’s arrest, now refrain from mentioning him as a political comrade-in-arms. “He is detained and it is not the right time to talk about his entering politics. Today the issue is not on our agenda,” commented Tina Khidasheli, one of the leaders of the Republican Party, a central force on the Council.
TERRY DAVIS, SECRETARY GENERAL, COUNCIL OF EUROPE, RESPONSE TO MR. BERDZENISHVILI’S REMARKS ON MATYAS EORSI
Georgia’s public and private information agencies
December 14, 2007
“I know Georgia very well because I was the rapporteur for its accession to the Council of Europe, and I can say that such statements have nothing to do with Georgia as I know it. The great majority of Georgians are tolerant people, and they do not need to be urged to reject such intolerant and racist statements. The gentleman in question has only damaged his own reputation and his party's reputation. But this does not mean that such outbursts should be taken lightly. Politicians must be accountable for what they say and for the example they set to other people.”
STATEMENT OF THE NDI PRE-ELECTION DELEGATION TO GEORGIA’S 2008 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS