Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania, said recent developments involving arrests of MoD and general staff officials, as well as newly filed charges against army medical officers are “obviously politically” motivated.
“I want to clearly state that this is an attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice; this is an attack on the structure, which has been and is distinguished with its successful reforms and is distinguished on the path of achieving this foreign policy goal,” Alasania said.
He made the announcement in the headquarters of his Free Democrats party, which formally still remains a member of the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition.
Standing alongside with the leadership of his party, among them lawmakers from Georgian Dream-Free Democrats parliamentary faction, as well as State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Alexi Petriashvili, Alasania made a statement without taking any questions from journalists.
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“I want to address public over the recent developments related to the Ministry of Defense, about the steps taken by the prosecutor’s office, which continued today as charges were also filed against several other our colleagues. I want to unambiguously state that obvious political motives are observed,” Alasania said.
“When the Defense Minister was visiting France and Germany for meetings and talks with his counterparts on the issues related to increasing Georgia’s defense capacities” several MoD and general staff officials were arrested, Alasania said.
“Today, when the chief of general staff of the armed forces, General [Vakhtang] Kapanadze, is visiting Washington to meet his U.S. counterpart, [criminal charges were filed] against the heads of our [army] medical services,” he said.
“We have never said that someone should obstruct investigation, but we had doubts about the grounds of putting these people [arrested MoD and general staff officials] behind the bars [in pre-trial detention]. They were not running anywhere and several [MoD] top officials offered their personal guarantees for them [to be released]. All these cause suspicion that we are dealing with deliberate attack against the Defense Ministry, which is a direct chain of our country’s link with NATO, European Union and since the issue is about our country’s political orientation, our country’s future, just therefore, I decided to make this statement and tomorrow I will appeal to the [GD] ruling coalition’s political council [the main decision-making body] to gather and open a discussion about which direction the prosecutor’s office and these developments are leading our country to,” Alasania said.
“I want to clearly state that this is an attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice; this is an attack on the structure, which has been and is distinguished with its successful reforms and is distinguished on the path of achieving this foreign policy goal,” he added.
“Neither the prosecutor’s office nor mudslinging by some media representatives can frighten me,” he continued. “I promise to the Georgian society that we will bring the deeds launched by us after the 2012 parliamentary elections to the end and we will be committed to those ideals for which we have won together with the society.”
“Let me stress again that now the most important is to keep calm, wisdom and to continue firmly the struggle for Georgia’s political future,” Alasania said.
As he was speaking, PM Irakli Garibashvili, who is leader of the GD ruling coalition, was meeting with lawmakers from the GD parliamentary majority and cabinet ministers in the GD headquarters. Alasania and lawmakers from his Free Democrats party have not joined that meeting.
Alasania, accompanied by lawmakers from his Free Democrats party, met Garibashvili on November 3 to discuss arrest of one former and four serving officials from MoD’s procurement and general staff’s communications units. Alasania said twice since the arrests were made on October 28 that he’s “fully confident” in innocence of the detained officials, who have been charged with misspending of GEL 4.1 million in an alleged sham tender last year.
Prosecutor’s office further upped the ante on November 4 by filing new charges in a separate case against three army medical officials and three employees of a state-owned food provider company in case related to foodborne illnesses of hundreds of servicemen last year.
Alexi Petriashvili of the Free Democrats party, who holds the post of the State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration in the government, condemned the recent MoD-related arrests and criminal charges as “cascade of completely incomprehensible and groundless” allegations.
“Everything should be clarified; there is a political council of [GD ruling coalition] and we want to hear from our political partners their assessment and their vision,” Petriashvili told journalists after Alasania made his statement.
MP Viktor Dolidze of the Free Democrats party, who chairs European integration committee in the parliament, said the recent MoD-related criminal investigations are “groundless” and represent “deliberate fight against the Ministry of Defense.” He said that new criminal charges filed on November 4 “are outrageous and beyond all the limits.”
“Free Democrats have always fought for our Euro-Atlantic values and we will keep on our fight,” MP Dolidze added.
Parliament speaker, Davit Usupashvili, who is from the Republican Party, also a member of the GD ruling coalition, said on November 4 that filing of new charges related to MoD was a surprise for him. He said that timing of these new charges, which follows after the arrests of MoD and general staff officials a week earlier, is suspicious.
“I call on the chief prosecutor [Giorgi Badashvili], who is responsible for his agency to act solely within the legal framework, and ask him to withstand all the possible pressure on him,” Usupashvili said, adding that GD ruling coalition partners should act in “such crisis situations” with responsibility and try to solve all the issues through discussions.
MP Davit Bakradze, leader of the UNM parliamentary minority group, said that Alasania’s statement is “extremely alarming.”
“We demand answer from the Defense Minister and the entire government on question of who is fighting against Georgia’s EU and NATO integration, who are those forces and people, who are attacking the Ministry of Defense in order not to make Georgia EU and NATO member,” MP Bakradze said.
Nino Burjanadze, leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia opposition party, said that the recent developments represent “not only governmental crisis, but also the state crisis.”
“When the Defense Minister makes public statement that the same government, which he is part of, is carrying out political prosecution it clearly indicates on the grave crisis in the country,” Burjanadze said.