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President, Prosecutor's Office at Odds over 'Disclosure of Classified Correspondence'
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 11 Aug.'14 / 15:54

President’s office has challenged Prosecutor’s Office over handling of “classified correspondence”, accusing the latter of disclosing information which was classified by the Prosecutor’s Office itself.

Prosecutor’s Office revealed to media on August 8 that it had requested President Margvelashvili to declassify those portions of 2009-2013 spending records from the Special State Protection Service (SSPS), which were still remaining as secret. Part of those records were declassified and made public after the Georgian Dream coalition came into power. When cache of dozens of those documents were made public in April, 2013, GD said at the time that those records were showing misspending of large amount of public funds by then president Mikheil Saakashvili. Some portions of those spending records remained confidential as their declassification was falling within the authority of the President.

Few hours after the Prosecutor’s Office made public its request to the President’s administration, the latter released a statement on August 8 expressing “concern” and accusing Prosecutor’s Office of unauthorized discloser of classified correspondence between the President’s office and the Prosecutor’s Office “in violation of the law on state secret.”

President’s administration said that the letter received from Prosecutor’s Office in which the latter was asking for declassifying certain information was in itself classified as secret by the Prosecutor’s Office and discloser of existence of such correspondence in itself was already violation of law.

President’s office asked the Interior Ministry, which under the law is in charge of looking into “consequences of discloser of state secrets”, to react on the issue.

But the Interior Ministry responded on August 9 that there was nothing to react on as the “case contains no sign of crime.” It also said allegation that Prosecutor’s Office disclosed secret information was “not true.”

Prosecutor’s Office also denied the allegation and said that the President “has been misled” by claiming that confidential correspondence has been disclosed.

Argument continued next day with President’s office releasing new statement insisting again that revealing fact of such correspondence itself was discloser of information, which was classified by the Prosecutor’s Office itself.

President’s office said in a statement on August 9 that “if state institutions classify a document and then disclose classified letter without its declassification, it will pose threat to functioning of the entire system set by the law on state secret.”

“If there was nothing secret in this correspondence, why it was classified as secret? And if these letters were classified by prosecutor’s office, then why it was revealed to the media sources?” Giorgi Kverenchkhiladze, president’s parliamentary secretary, asked rhetorically while commenting on the issue on August 9.
 
Prosecutor’s office, however, responded that it finds “it inappropriate to get into a dispute on legal matters with the President, especially when it is obvious that no secret information has been made public by the prosecutor’s office.”

Another aspect of the issue is related to possible new charges against ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, who has already been charged with exceeding official authorities in two separate, unrelated cases.

Prosecutor’s Office said that it requested President Margvelashvili to declassify remaining secret portions of SSPS spending records from 2009-2013 as part of its investigation into “misspending” of budgetary funds. Prosecution suggested that the information in question in fact contained no state secret and was classified just to keep “misspending” of public funds beyond public scrutiny.

Prosecutor’s Office said that it sent the request to President’s administration twice – on July 12 and then again on August 6. President’s office announced about its decision to declassify requested information only after the Prosecutor’s Office informed media about its request to the President on August 8.

Prosecutors questioned last month Temur Janashia, who was head of the SSPS under ex-president Saakashvili; some former officers from presidential security service and several employees of SSPS were also interrogated by prosecutors last month.

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