The Georgian National Olympic Committee (GNOC) overwhelmingly voted for the impeaching of Badri Patarkatsishvili, the GNOC president, on October 9.
The move comes a day after ruling party officials accused Patarkatsishvili of “plotting intrigues” against the state “with the hands of” Irakli Okruashvili, the ex-defense minister.
In a taped video testimony released by the General Prosecutor’s Office on October 8, Okruashvili retracted his accusations against President Saakashvili of plotting to murder Patarkatsishvili and said that his accusation was aimed at “gaining political dividends” both for him and Patarkatsishvili.
Twenty six members of the GNOC executive council, out of 29 present, voted for Patarkatsishvili’s impeachment, one abstained, one voted against and one walked out in protest.
Gogi Topadze, a beer magnate, founder of the Industrialist Party and the president of the Georgian Winter Sports Federation, will become acting GNOC president until new elections, which are scheduled for October 29, are held. Topadze said afterwards that he had abstained.
Nona Gaprindashvili, the president of the Georgian Chess Federation, said the GNOC’s decision to impeach Patarkatsishvili was as a result of pressure from the authorities.
“Most of the presidents of the [various sports] federations are from the ruling party,” Gaprindashvili, who voted against, told reporters. “It was obvious pressure from the authorities… from [the minister for culture and sport, Goka] Gabashvili and [the head of the Department for Sport, Davit] Namgalauri.”
Minister Gabashvili, however, rejected the allegation as groundless and said that the decision to convene a special session of the GNOC executive committee and to sack Patarkatsishvili had been made “on the initiative of the federation members.”
“A person, who is engaged in discrediting our country and the president [Mikheil Saakashvili], should not be the [GNOC] president,” Gabashvili told reporters.
Key lawmakers from the ruling party have been highly critical of Patarkatsishvili since Okruashvili’s taped testimony was released.
“Mr. Patarkatsishvili, it is unacceptable to plot intrigues and slander using others, and to hide behind their backs,” Giga Bokeria, an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, said. “It is shameful to continue in this way.”
Rustavi 2 TV, which is seen as being pro-government, reported on October 8 that Patarkatsishvili had fled the country to London shortly after Okruashvili confessed.
In an interview with the Georgian news agency, InterPressNews, Patarkatsishvili, however, denied this, saying he had attended a planned “business meeting” in London and would be back in Tbilisi later on October 9.
The head of the air navigation service, Giorgi Karbelashvili, confirmed that Patarkatsishvili private jet had planned to take off from Tbilisi airport at 11 am on October 8 but had been delayed for unspecified reasons. The jet left at 2 pm on the same day, just as news of Okruashvili’s testimony broke.