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Opposition Supporters Are Terrorized

NGOs blame the government for human rights violation during pre-lection campaign. Human rights defenders mention certain facts of oppression, threat and physical abuse on voters and demand adequate reaction from corresponding bodies.

According to the Human Rights Centre the offices of the United National Movement are officially located in private buildings, but in fact representatives of the ruler party are holding pre-election campaign in the buildings of local government and they are agitating and taking punitive measures against those people who do not support them.

Almost in every district of Kakheti region local self-governments work in favor of the United National Movement. After the observation it turned out that during working hours and especially reception days the heads of Saakashvili’s election staff meet each other in the cabinet of the governor. The citizens, who have applied to them for assistance, have get promises. In addition that that if district governor makes presentation of implemented work from the local budget he is accompanied by the activists of National Movement. They are distributing election posters and booklets among people. Although Georgian Election Code permit governmental officials to participate in pre-election campaign, the representatives of local self-government are actively involved in these processes,” stated Lia Khuroshvili, the lawyer of the Human Rights Centre’s Kakheti Office.

According to the lawyer, the members of Election Commission and policemen, prosecutor’s office, District Branches of Subsidy Agencies, Tax Inspection and Department of Revenue are actively involved in the pre-election campaign.

Human rights defenders declare that the representatives of local self-government categorically demand their colleagues not to cooperate with the election offices of other presidential candidates except Mikheil Saakashvili; otherwise they will be fired.

During the monitoring of the pre-election campaign we observed the following facts in Kvareli district. On December 11 Levan Gachechiladze the presidential candidate of the United Opposition met Kvareli residents in the Culture House. The medical staff of maternity hospital attended the meeting and they were fired.

Maia Kikoleishvili, the head of the maternity hospital, was warned by local self-government that if similar fact happens again she will be fired too. Zaza Lomidze the deputy governor strictly warned the workers of the Culture House not to attend the meeting. In order to control the staff one of them was ordered video-record the meeting in the Culture House. Vano Khandurashvili the worker of Kvareli fire-office who represents the United Opposition in Kvareli Election Commission #3 was threatened and invited to the quarter of Koba Burkiashvili, Kvareli Municipality governor. He was demanded to support National Movement. Other employees of governmental bodies are also under pressure. For instance Ramaz Kerechashvili Gurjaani governor forced his employees to write their resignations which are not registered at the chancellery. The resignation letters are on the governor’s table and in doing so he tries to blackmail his personnel,” said the lawyer. 

According to the Human Rights Centre throughout Kakheti region the violations of the law are mainly observed in Kvareli, Signagi, Gurjaani and Telavi districts.

During the visit of the presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili the participants of the presidential program “Patriots” arrived by busses and they were represented to the society as Saakashvili supporters and potential voters. In fact most of them do not have any right to vote in the election. Saakashvili and his supporters often announce on TV that people all over Kakheti region had arrived to support Saakashvili.

The taxi drivers in Kvareli and other districts were forced to put up Saakashvili’s posters on their cars with the slogan “Saakashvili and I Will Win”

Aminat Alieva the head of Election Commission #12 in the village of Tivi and Alik Aliev the member of Kvareli Municipal City Council took IDs from voters and have not returned them yet. Tivi is within Akhalsopeli community and it is populated by ethnic Leks. Several days ago the activists of the National Movement put Badri Taturashvili the member of Kvareli Regional Commission in their car. This person is supposed to be the supporter of the united opposition in the village of Sanavardo. Badri Taturashvili was physically abused by so called “Black Gela” According to our information the instruction was given from David Adeishvili brother of the General Prosecutor, “declare human rights defenders in Kakheti.

Vazha Varadashvili the head of Kvareli election staff of the presidential candidate of the United Opposition considers that the local and regional governments are completed by Kvareli residents and they are well aware about the methods of falsification in this region and that’s why the facts are mainly observed in Kvareli. The tense situation is also in the villages of Mtisdziri and Akhalsopeli. General Prosecutor Zurab Adeishvili comes from Mtisdziri and MP Marika Verulashvili is from Akhalsopeli who is at the same time the president’s spokeswoman. Of course they do not want to lose the election in these villages. Thus they are applying to all measures,” stated Vazha Varadashvili.

According to Vazha Sepashvili the head of Badri Patarkatsishvili’s election HQ, they face the same problems too. They tried to hire building for their election activities in the city centre several times but all negotiations with the owners were cancelled. As the head of Patarkatsishvili’s HQ states district police was actively involved in the process. They oppressed and forced the owners of commercial spaces not to rent to the representatives of Badri Patarkatsishvili. Nowadays the headquarter of the presidential candidate is located in one of private houses whose owner ran the store there but it was closed since tax inspection decided to check accounts of individual entrepreneurs.

“Two men entered the shop. They bought two cigarette boxes and I immediately gave them the receipt. Then they inquired whom I and my family members intended to vote for during elections. I did not answer them. Finally they told me that they were from the Tax Inspection and warned me to vote for Mikheil Saakashvili on January 5. They said they have counted how many votes former president should receive and if it is not enough I would have some problems. If I obey their orders, they would discharge me from fine,” said the shop-assistant.

Sighnaghi district judge Tamaz Jaliashvili has fined lawyer Tamaz Bezhashvili, the head of the Sighnaghi election staff of the United Opposition, with one hundred lari. Bezhashvili said that the judge had found him guilty based on the report made by the policeman where he was accused for minor hooliganism. “On December 20th policemen started argument with my son, Tsotne Bezhashvili who is also actively involved in the pre-election campaign. They wanted to provoke him. On the next day I was going to Tbilisi and was waiting for it. The police station was nearby. Before the car arrived I tried to find out with Ilia Kutsikashvili what complaints they had about my son. During our conversation he blamed me for minor hooliganism and drew up a detention report on me,’ said Bezhashvili who thinks that the incident was political revenge.
Our attention was attracted by another incident in Sighnaghi. The witnesses say that policemen, investigator Giorgi Elizbarashvili and the others, threatened Zaza Barnabishvili, local resident, with planting drugs on him unless he voted for Saakashvili. Zaza told his father about the threats and the latter tried to find out the situation with the investigator Elizbarashvili. During the conversation the father of Barnabishvili was arrested for having injured the investigator and he was sent to prison. Zaza Barnabishvili has escaped.

Nobody confirms the fact at the Kakheti main department of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Representatives of the Sighnaghi police say that Bezhashvili committed crime and he was not fined in political revenge.

Representatives of the Tax Inspection also deny the facts of suppression on individual entrepreneurs.

Neither Kvareli district Administration agrees with the complaints. They claim that almost every employee of the admijsnitration follows the law. 

Levan Bezhashvili, the head of Mikheil Saakashvili’s election staff in Kakheti, agreed to make comments on the situation. He thinks that pre-election campaign is going on in compliant with law in the region. “I do not believe the possibility that people are fired because of their different political faith. However, I will find out the situation about the Kvareli maternity house. We plan to cooperate with those NGOs who will monitor the elections on January 5 2008. We will react on every violation. The government does its best to hold fair elections. As for the accusations from the opposition I think that they are exaggerating the situation in order to gain more votes,” said Levan Bezhashvili.

Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

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