An MP from Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream Party has claimed that his summoning by the State Security Service for questioning regarding corruption investigation into Georgian Post, where he previously worked, may be politically motivated.
Bidzina Gegidze is one of the few Georgian Dream MPs who backed demands for Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia to resign following the dispersal of anti-Russia protesters on 20–21 June.
Gegidze is also among the few MPs who opposed stripping opposition MP Nika Melia of his parliamentary immunity. In his latest statement on Monday, he also criticised the process of appointing judges, a topic the government has come under fire for from a number of NGOs.
According to the State Security Service (SSG), their anti-corruption department launched an investigation in August 2018 concerning Gegidze’s ‘previous job’. According to Gegidze, he was the deputy director of the Georgian Post, a state-owned company. The SSG did not elaborate on the details of the investigation.
On 18 August, Gegidze wrote on his official Facebook page that he had been summoned by the SSG for questioning.
He held a press briefing the following day and said that ‘an investigation had been launched while [I] was politically active’.
‘Therefore it’s logical that the investigation launched in the summer of 2018, maybe connected with my political activities’, said Gegidze.
He also pointed out that the investigation began soon after the resignation of former prime minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, a friend of his.
On his way to being questioned Gegidze told OC Media that ‘no matter what other politicians argue, to state that political processes are separated from legal affairs is not true’.
At his briefing, Gegidze also said that he was sceptical about the process of judicial appointments and that he would likely leave the parliamentary majority if Georgian Dream maintains the current list of judges that he did not support.
When asked by journalists if the investigation could be a consequence of his lack of support for stripping UNM MP Nika Melia of immunity, he said that this couldn’t be the case as the investigation was launched long before then.
On Monday, Parliamentary Chair Archil Talakvadze denied that Gegidze’s questioning was politically motivated and said that he had always been free to express his critical opinions.
‘It’s possible he wants to move to another political team and he’s coming up with reasons’, said Talakvadze.
Disagreements with the ruling party
In February 2018, then–Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said the Georgian Dream party ‘shared concerns’ regarding some of the judges permanently appointed on 22 February.
Appointments to Georgia’s High Council of Justice have faced criticism because several of the judges had previously made controversial rulings.
Kvirikashvili resigned in February over ‘disagreements with [Georgian Dream chair Bidzina] Ivanishvili’.
‘The PM is my friend and everybody knows this. The investigation was launched soon after his resignation’, said Gegidze during his briefing.
Gegidze has expressed opinions out of alignment with the ruling party on many occasions.
On 25 June he said that Interior Minister should take full responsibility for the consequences of 20–21 June, when police dispersed protesters.
Police used tear gas, and later a water cannon, against protesters who were trying to march into the parliament. Rubber bullets were also fired indiscriminately into the crowd.
[Read on OC Media: Voice | ‘What I hate the most is the injustice of it’]
Two-hundred-and-forty people were hospitalised during the clash, including 80 police officers. Two people lost sight in one eye while another two ended up in life-threatening condition.
More than 35 journalists were also injured, mostly by rubber bullets, including OC Media Co-Director Mari Nikuradze.
[Read on OC Media: 5 violations by police during the Tbilisi clash]
Opposition leader Nika Melia was stripped of his immunity by the Georgian Parliament on 26 June, greenlighting the Prosecutor’s Office to appeal for his pre-trial arrest while investigating him for ‘inciting and participating in violence’ to storm the parliament building. Four Georgian Dream MPs, including Gegidze, abstained from voting.
He said that the decision was rushed and ‘not favourable for either the ruling party or the opposition’.