Georgian opposition groups have demanded an explanation from the government after former Chief Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze was spotted driving a car while a ban on driving was in place.
Levan Khabeishvili, a Tbilisi City Councillor from the opposition UNM Party, alleged that he spotted Partskhaladze driving his car on Tbilisi’s central Rustaveli Avenue on Saturday. He also alleged that there was another person seated next to Partskhaladze — also a breach of State of Emergency rules, as a ban is currently in place on anyone occupying a car’s front passenger seat.
Khabeishvili published footage of the encounter on Facebook along with a warning that not everyone was being treated equally during the country’s state of emergency.
Georgian authorities introduced a nationwide ban on driving all private vehicles on 17 April to halt the spread of COVID-19. The ban, which granted exceptions to essential workers, who were issued special permits, was only lifted on Monday.
[Read more on OC Media: Scandal ridden former Georgian chief prosecutor charged over brawl]
Kakha Kaladze, the ruling Georgian Dream party's general secretary and the mayor of Tbilisi was the only one among major officials to respond.
Speaking to journalists on 28 April, Kaladze said that if Partskhaladze did not have a pass then ‘of course, he should be fined’.
No government agencies have so far satisfied the opposition groups’ demand to show on what grounds Partskhaladze, who currently holds no official government position, could have had a special permit. If he did not have a permit, they have requested the government show proof that he has been fined.
Partskhaladze has had a scandal-plagued run in Georgian politics. In 2013, he served as Chief Prosecutor for only 47 days, resigning shortly after allegations emerged that he had served 15 months in jail for theft and robbery in Germany. In 2017, he was indicted for assaulting Lasha Tordia, then-outgoing Auditor General, in a club in Tbilisi.
‘How the system operates’
The United National Movement and European Georgian parties, among other members of the political opposition, have said that this case is representative of a wider problem.
'Mr Partskhaladze is a public face and that's why we have learned about this case. Otherwise, passes and permits were given out massively[...] they [the authorities], as they usually do, gave out permits to their relatives, and friends. We are talking about a possible systemic violation. In this case, I don't want to concentrate personally on Partskhaladze only; the point is how the system operates’, Kakha Kozhoradze, a member of the opposition Lelo party and a prominent former human rights advocate, stated on 27 April.
The issue of equality before the law has been particularly acute in Georgia in recent weeks, in part due to Easter celebrations held by the Georgian Orthodox Church.
In spite of a curfew and pleading from medical authorities against it, the Church refused to stop receiving parishioners in the churches and never stopped the practice of using a shared spoon during the ritual of Holy Communion.