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Opposition Condemns Emergency Rule
/ 9 Nov.'07 / 19:07
Civil Georgia

Parliament has backed the presidential decree imposing a state of emergency and restrictions on the media throughout the country. The move means emergency rule will remain in force until late on November 22.

Eka Sharashidze, chief of the President’s administration, said in the evening on November 9 that the situation was stabilizing and the state of emergency would probably be lifted much sooner than envisaged by the decree.

Not a single opposition lawmaker attended the parliamentary session in protest at the imposition of emergency rule.

“We think that by doing so the Georgian parliament has collaborated in violating human rights and establishing an authoritarian regime,” a statement issued by the New Rights party said.

“Although the situation has stabilized in Tbilisi and in the rest of Georgia, the threat to stability still exists,” Nino Burjanadze, the parliamentary speaker, said. “The threat posed to our country by foreign forces with the use of some internal forces has not fully receded… but I also do not rule out the possibility of lifting emergency rule earlier than envisaged by the decree.”

She justified the government's actions, saying the measures undertaken in recent days were necessary “in light of an obvious coup attempt.”

Burjanadze also said that she was ready to negotiate with what she described as “the healthy part of our opposition.”

“There are people and political parties with whom we will not engage in dialogue. They are suspected of having links with a foreign country’s intelligence services. We have nothing to negotiate with them. But we are ready to negotiate with all the rest,” she added.

Shalva Natelashvili, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, has been charged by the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office with espionage and conspiracy, on behalf of Russia, to overthrow the government. Natelashvili’s whereabouts are unknown.

Giorgi Khaindrava of the opposition group Equality Institute; Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, leader of Freedom Party and MP Levan Berdzenishvili of the Republican Party have also been accused by the authorities of having links with operatives from the Russian intelligence services. No charges, however, have been brought against them.

Givi Targamadze, a lawmaker from the ruling party, insisted that the authorities would not negotiate personally with these three politicians, but he did suggest that they might still be willing to hold talks with other figures from the Republican Party.

Opposition leaders, including those from the Republican Party, have in any case ruled out the possibility of talks, as long as emergency rule remains in force, and in particular, as long as two opposition TV stations are off the air.

MP Givi Targamadze, the chairman of the parliamentary committee for defense and security, addressed lawmakers before Parliament approved the imposition of emergency rule.

He outlined the official version of events over the last few months, saying that the authorities had foiled “a well-organized coup attempt”, which was financed by business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, backed by Russia and abetted by some political forces within Georgia. 

The General Prosecutor’s Office said on November 9 that Patarkatsishvili, who is currently in London, was suspected of conspiring to overthrow the government.

MP Targamadze dealt extensively in his address to Parliament with Imedi TV, claiming the station – co-owned by Patarkatsishvili and News Corporation – was the propaganda wing of the alleged coup plotters. Imedi TV, along with another pro-opposition station, Kavkasia TV, was shut down by the authorities.

“Everything started with [ex-Defense Minister] Irakli Okruashvili’s provocative lies aired during an interview with Imedi TV. That served as a catalyst for subsequent developments,” Targamadze said. “Imedi TV was preparing the ground by planting the seed in the public's mind that November 2 was the start of a revolution.”

With the anti-government demonstrations losing momentum, Targamadze said, Imedi TV tried to kich start them again with a live interview with Okruashvili. “But it also failed to work and the numbers continued to fall.”

Imedi TV went off the air late on November 9 after armed police broke into the television station's headquarters in a suburb of Tbilisi. Imedi radio station and website were also shut down.

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