Eka Beselia, a former influential member of Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party, has given the authorities a month to fully investigate a series of leaks of sex tapes involving her over the last two months.
Beselia and several rights groups have criticised law enforcement agencies for failing to find those responsible for recording and disseminated footage of her private life.
She warned the government she would ‘call everything by its name’ if they failed to succeed.
Beselia was a close ally of Georgian Dream party chair Bidzina Ivanishvili until she left the party in February along with several other MPs after a row over the lifetime appointment of judges to the supreme court.
[Read on OC Media: Legal committee head resigns amidst ‘crisis’ and ‘clan rule’ in Georgia’s judiciary]
Beselia announced her ultimatum after two public figures reported that the sex tape was once again available online.
Talking to Imedi TV on 26 March, Hermann Szabó, a member of libertarian party Girchi, informed the public that they accidentally discovered the footage on YouTube earlier that day.
Eliso Kiladze, an editor of newspaper Kronika+, also said she reported the video to the authorities after one of her contacts on Facebook notified her about it.
‘It’s apparent that the private space of an individual is not being protected’, Beselia said. ‘The Interior Ministry must take responsibility and answer why they have not been able to investigate this case and expose the perpetrators’,
She said she expected the authorities to find both who ordered her illegal taping which she said happened during the rule of the United National Movement (UNM), and who leaked them.
'You can't defeat a woman with these methods’
While Beselia has claimed her sex tapes were recorded during the UNM’s rule and that she was aware of them, she also pointed out several times that they became public only after her fallout with the Georgian Dream.
The first leak was reported on 27 January, exactly a month after Beselia resigned as chair of parliament’s legal affairs committee over her disagreement with the party over supreme court justice nominations.
While not accusing her former party directly, on 28 January, Beselia called the leak ‘apparent retribution’ against her and demanded a prompt investigation.
On 11 and 14 March 2016, several public figures, including politicians and journalists critical of Georgian Dream, were also targeted in a series of sex tape leaks and threats to expect more unless they resigned from their posts.
In January 2019, Beselia followed popular TV journalist Inga Grigolia’s route; the latter publicly called out her blackmailers and insisted on-air in March 2016 that she would not be intimidated by threats.
Throughout recent months, Beselia has reiterated that the leaks would not stop her from criticising her former party.
Apart from her criticism of justice system reforms, she has recently publicly ridiculed the head of the parliamentary majority, Mamuka Mdinaradze, for accidentally sending instructions of how to attack Beselia publicly to Beselia herself. Mdinaradze later confirmed the blunder.
Beselia also scoffed at the majority after they explained their failure to remove an ally, MP Zviad Kvachantiradze, from a parliamentary committee after ‘mixing up the green and red buttons’ during the vote.
In a 27 March Facebook post, she called her former party members, who had formally denounced the leaks, ‘participants in moral terror’.
‘I want to show you that it is impossible to defeat a woman with these methods… I will try to lead by my own example to prove it to you!!!’, Beselia wrote about the leaks on Facebook.
Soon after the news on the latest sex tape leak broke, deputy interior minister Natia Mezvrishvili told journalists that they had arrested an 18-year-old in a village in Georgia’s Black Sea region of Adjara for uploading the video on YouTube.
The deputy minister said that according to preliminary reports, it looked like he acted alone.
The footage has since been removed from YouTube.
Mezvrishvili reminded the public that storing, sharing, and uploading footage that was illegally recorded constitutes a criminal offence, and criticised ‘suggestions’ that punishments for this were too harsh.
The UNM, as well as their spin-off party European Georgia, and Girchi, have been critical of prosecutions over the leaks.
On 27 March, Girchi leader Zurab Japaridze scolded law enforcement for going after individuals for ‘doing nothing different than over 10,000 people’ who allegedly watched the latest video.
‘Jailing people for viewing a video which is publicly available and accessible to all is crazy and is selective justice’, Japaridze insisted.
Police arrested 18 individuals in early February for sharing the footage of Beselia in January. Twelve were released on bail soon after, and the remaining four were granted ₾5,000 ($1,900) bail on 28 March. Nevertheless, all of them face four to eight years in prison.
On 28 March, human rights group the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) accused law enforcement of ‘waging an illusionary battle’ against the dissemination of private footage as ‘presumably, no real actions were taken to track down’ those who had ordered the footage be recorded and initially disseminated it.