PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili has ruled out there was a political motive or a blackmail attempt when the police searched President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s relative - the case the President described as an attempt to exert a “pressure”.
On July 25 President Margvelashvili met Chairman of Constitutional Court Giorgi Papuashvili to discuss allegation the latter voiced last week, claiming that some of the judges of the 9-member Court were “pressured” and “blackmailed” to either rule in favor of the authorities or drag out verdicts in several high-profile cases.
Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, President Margvelashvili said that was not surprised by Constitutional Court Chairman’s allegations about pressure as he personally became a target of this “dangerous trend” after “pressure” was exerted on one of his family members.
He said that about a month ago one of his family members, whom he did not specify, was stopped by the police in a street and then his home was searched “without any court warrant”.
“Everything was of course clean and there was no wrongdoing [on the part of his family member], but there were some hints that it was done in an attempt to exert pressure on this person,” the President said.
He said that PM Kvirikashvili has nothing to do with this “dangerous trend” and added that it was done on a “lower level” as a result of “informal links” between certain political groups and law enforcement agencies. “And these [links] are used for political purposes,” the President said without elaborating details.
PM Kvirikashvili told journalists in western region of Samegrelo, where he was on the election campaign trail, that he spoke with the President about the issue several days ago.
“I immediately instructed the Interior Minister [Giorgi Mgebrishvili] to promptly clarify this situation. I rule out that it was blackmail or that a political component was involved. If there was a procedural violation, reaction will be very strict, but I repeat that I rule out political component,” PM Kvirikashvili said.
“I think that before making political statements, we all – me, the President, Chairman of the Constitutional Court too – should provide information to the law enforcement agencies, and of course we are all equal before the law,” he added.
After the PM’s remarks, the Interior Ministry released a statement saying that in late June, the police searched three men as part of ongoing investigation into alleged illegal possession of firearms – the measure, the interior ministry said, was deemed lawful by the court. One of the men was President’s son-in-law, Mindia Gogochuri, whose car and house were also searched. According to the Interior Ministry, one of the men was carrying a “cold weapon”, but nothing illegal was found in respect of President’s son-in-law and the third man as a result no criminal investigation was launched against him.
Vice speaker of parliament from ruling GDDG party, Manana Kobakhidze, accused the President of making irresponsible and “unserious” statements, which simply aim at “throwing accusations” at the government. After making these remarks while speaking with journalists on camera, she was then caught on hot mic saying that the President was apparently drunk when voicing these allegations.
“I had an impression that he had a bit more dose of alcohol. I did not say it on camera, but the first that came to mind while [listening to the President] – he loves strong drinks… was that he had a bit more dose of alcohol,” she said smiling.
Shortly after the President’s statement, one of the leaders of the UNM opposition party, Giga Bokeria, said that allegations voiced by the President and Chairman of Constitutional Court about “politically motivated pressure on them and their family members” demonstrates that there is a “disastrous situation” in the country.
“The prime minister decides nothing; people, who are under direct subordination of [ex-PM Bidzina] Ivanishvili are committing these crimes,” Bokeria said.
“If such case really took place and there was a pressure by the law enforcement agencies on a family member of the President it means that there is no state, and it means that there is a question mark over the legitimacy of the 2016 parliamentary elections,” said Khatuna Lagazidze of the opposition State for the People, party launched by opera singer Paata Burchuladze.
Alexi Petriashvili of the Free Democrats opposition party said that it was “outrageous”.
“When Chairman of the Constitutional Court, the President, as well as opposition parties are speaking about it [pressure], it means that we are dealing with a serious state scandal. I hope that the Prime Minister will react appropriately,” he said.