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Reservists Are Forced to Meet Presidential Candidate

10.12.2007
After former President Mikheil Saakashvili met participants of the presidentially-funded Patrioti program, reservists are now required to meet with Saakashvili. Reservists have received a special summons from their local municipality military units last week. The letter stated that unless the soldiers attended the meeting in the Gurjaani sporting grounds on December 11th, they face a fine of 500 lari and an official charge of resistance.

According to reports, Mikheil Saakashvili, Presidential candidate with the “United National Movement,” intends to visit the Gurjaani district on December 11th. He will meet with locals at the sporting grounds. Reservists from the region have already been invited to attend the meeting. In a conversation with the Human Rights Center, one reservist recounted that he was verbally warned to arrive at the sporting grounds on time. “Representatives of the district military unit delivered a letter of invitation to me personally,” said a twenty-five-year-old man who wished to remain anonymous. “I read it and asked the messenger why they were inviting us. He answered that Saakashvili was arriving in Gurjaani on Tuesday and that we had to meet him. Before that, we are to go to Telavi to receive new military uniforms.”

Another reservist said that he is busy at the time Saakashvili intends to meet with them but is obliged to be on the Gurjaani sporting grounds. “Unless I go,” the man says, “they will fine me 500 lari or put me in prison for resistance and breach of military discipline. I cannot remember the exact context of the contract but I remember exactly that last year when I finished my courses at the reservist unit I signed a contract. It seems I took on a responsibility to obey all orders by signing that document.”

The Human Rights Center contacted the Military Department of the Municipality and got in touch with the head of the department to verify reports of the letters being sent to reservists. Zurab Ananiashvili confirms that reservists received the notes but he does not know the exact reason for it. “Our department recruits the soldiers,” Ananiashvili said, “We have no connection with this concrete act. Our representatives who supervise the villages simply assisted the unit,” said Ananiahsivli.

Temur Shakarashvili, the head of the Telavi Reservist Unit within the Defense Ministry, directed journalist inquiries to Irakli Vanishvili, his deputy. “On December 11th, we have invited the reservists. We intend to take them to Telavi where we will give them new uniforms and this event is not connected with Mikheil Saakashvili’s visit. I did not know that he was arriving in Kakheti,” said Vanishvili. The Human Rights Center asked why new uniforms were being given out on the day a presidential candidate was arriving in Kakheti if this event was not connected to Saakashvili’s visit. Vanishvili explained it was a simple coincidence.

A short time before Saakashvili resigned from the Presidency, he visited Kvareli, a town in the Kakheti region. The Governors, the Chairmen of the District Municipalities and leaders of local offices of the National Movement led dozens of buses with Patriot Camp participants from various Districts in the Kakheti region. Many people attended the meeting. Saakashvili was proud and stated that the whole of Kakheti supported his policies. He believed that the whole region was attending the meeting.

Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

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