Lawmakers from the ruling National Movement party said on December 21 they are against a proposal by opposition MPs to set up a special commission to probe into the alleged abuse of property rights by the authorities.
The opposition lawmakers claim that they know of dozens of cases where property owners in Tbilisi have been forced into “so-called voluntarily” handing over office space to the state after pressure from the General Prosecutor’s Office. Opposition MP from the Republican Party Davit Berdzenishvili said that “legitimate doubts” arise about pressure when dozens of people who own restaurants in the Rike area in downtown Tbilisi hand their property over to the state.
Another case that recently captured the attention of the opposition and media involves Jacob Shamatava, who said on December 19 that prosecutors were intimidating him to hand over to the state his plot of land in a Tbilisi suburb near the U.S. Embassy, even threatening to arrest him.
Shamatava made this statement at a joint news conference with opposition lawmaker Kakha Kukava from the Conservative Party. The next day he was arrested and accused of fabricating documents through which he managed to obtain ownership rights over the disputed plot of land. But Shamatava claims that he legally privatized the plot of land, which was previously leased by his grandfather. The court released Shamatava on GEL 100 000 bail on December 21.
“This is not a single case of expropriation of property by the authorities… Shamatava was punished and arrested just because he publicly spoke out against the pressure which was mounted on him by the General Prosecutor’s Office,” MP Kakha Kukava said at the parliamentary session on December 21.
Key lawmakers from the ruling National Movement party said that an investigation by law enforcement agencies has been launched into cases of “illegal privatizations.”
MP Giga Bokeria from the ruling party said that there are cases of illegal privatizations being carried out through the direct involvement of some mid- and low-ranking officials, adding that investigations have been launched to reveal their wrongdoings.
MP Levan Bezhashvili from the ruling party, who chairs the Parliamentary Committee for Legal Affairs, said that he looked into the documents involving those privatization cases that are currently being probed by law enforcers. “And I can say that these privatizations were really carried out through violations of the law,” he added.
Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze said that property rights should be protected, “but if there are facts of illegal privatization, the state should react appropriately.”
MP Giga Bokeria also said that “no one should have illusions” that those who have illegally privatized property will be able to avoid legal persecution if they secure support from the opposition, apparently referring to Shamatava’s case.
“By saying this you are telling your potential targets to give up their property without even trying to speak out, otherwise neither the opposition, nor anyone else will help you,” MP Davit Berdzenishvili of the opposition Republican Party, told the ruling majority.