Public Defender, Sozar Subari, has claimed he had proofs confirming that senior officials, including Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili, deliberately planned to break up anti-governmental demonstration with use of excessive force on November 7, 2007.
Subari, who refused to give details of “proofs,” asked lawmakers on December 30 to set up an investigative commission to probe into his claims and vowed to hand over this commission materials on the matter.
Subari was speaking while delivering his bi-annual report on human rights covering the first half of 2008.
“On Sunday, November 4, 2007, at 9pm a meeting was held at the office of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili with the participation of many senior officials,” he told the lawmakers, adding that apart of Merabishvili, then-Prosecutor General Zurab Adeishvili, who is now the justice minister; then-Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili and former head of the Interior Ministry’s Department for Constitutional Security, Data Akhalaia, attended the meeting. Subari did not list other officials, who also attended that alleged meeting.
“Merabishvili informed the participants with the tactics of struggle with opposition and protesters,” Subari continued. “In particular, the plan was to make a list of participants of the rally and none of them [protesters] should have remained unbeaten. He [Merabishvili] told the participants of that meeting that this activity [drawing up list] was already underway by the [Interior Ministry’s] Department of Constitutional Security and it was necessary to intensify efforts in this regard and to involve more people in this effort.”
“The protesters should have been beaten in their lungs and stomachs, however in special cases, Merabishvili added with smile on his face, it was possible to beat them in the face; planting drugs to some protesters – especially to – it is a quote [of Merabishvili] - ‘dark persons’ [a Georgian slang which is referred to persons, who may have links to criminal groups or persons with criminal background] and [Merabishvili also said] that Davit Kezerashvili would tackle businessmen supporting the opposition,” Subari said.
“The minister [Merabishvili] explained the reason behind the need of beating of protesters as follows: the most active protesters will start resisting, especially those from the provinces, but a beaten person usually is regarded in Georgia to be a [here again a slang was used which usually is referred to a person who does not deserve respect] and that persons will lose influence immediately. I beg your pardon for using these terms [referring to slang], but this is an exact quotation of the words that were said [by Merabishvili]. This is the motive – cited by Merabishvili - why the opposition activists and people dissatisfied with the government’s policies should have been beaten up.
He said that he had learnt about this meeting by midnight on the same day – November 4. Subari also said that after learning about this meeting and about the plans discussed during that meeting, he canceled a planned business trip to Vilnius.
“I told about this fact to some senior European diplomats and human rights watchdogs and they were numerously asking me when this fact would be publicized. But there were several obstacles to making this information public. One of them was: whom should I have applied to? Those very persons [the leadership of law enforcement agencies], who should have investigated the matter, were themselves behind it.”
Subari called on the Parliament to set up an investigative commission to probe into his information.
“I will hand over all the proofs I possess to this commission to confirm that this fact has really took place,” the Public Defender said.
In a response the ruling party lawmakers – and some MPs from the parliamentary minority too – asked the Public Defender to reveal a source of information and to say how he learned about that alleged meeting in the Interior Ministry and also why he decided to publicly speak about this matter more than thirteen months later.
Subari, however, responded that he would not say anything else on the matter and repeated that he would hand over proofs and give information on the matter only to the parliamentary commission if such was set up.
Lawmakers from the ruling party suggested that Subari’s allegation had only further confirmed their assumptions about the Public Defender being “opposition politician” using his position to create favorable platform for his future political career.
The Public Defender’s bi-annual address to the Parliament coincided with widespread media speculation about Subari’s plans of going into opposition. There has even been report according to which Subari allegedly planned to resign after delivering his report to the Parliament.
He was asked by lawmakers from both the ruling party and parliamentary minority to respond to these speculations. Subari responded: “I have never made it a secret that I will go into politics after I end my duties in the capacity of the Public Defender.” Subari’s term in office expires in September, 2009. But in one of his recent newspaper interviews Subari did not rule out quitting his post before the end of his term in office, saying that it would depend on how the political situation developed in the country.
“It seems that Mr. Subari decided to reserve this information [about the alleged meeting in the Interior Ministry] for his political goals,” an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, Givi Targamadze, said during the debates in the Parliament on December 30.
“It is absurd to set up a parliamentary investigative commission on these gossips,” he added.
MP Akaki Minashvili of the ruling party said: “Diagnosis is very simple – this person [Sozar Subari] is a politician.”
“Mr. Subari has been using his position to expand his political activities and for his political goals,” he continued. “We also witness a lack of professionalism, because we do not see any in-depth analysis of problems and appropriate recommendations to tackle these problems.”
“We have been expecting from him criticism, but criticism without political flavor and without politicization,” MP Pavle Kublashvili of the ruling party said.
Lawmakers from the parliamentary minority said they would support setting up of an investigative commission to probe in to the Public Defender’s claims.
A lawmaker from the ruling party, Khatuna Gogorishvili, asked the Public Defender why he – unlike his previous reports - did not cover issues related with religious freedoms in his recent report. MP Gogorishvili asked Subari whether absence of the issue meant that he was preparing for a political career and for that reason he was avoiding to speak about sensitive, unpopular issues.
Back in 2005 the Public Defender criticized in his report a concordat between the state and the Georgian Orthodox Church giving the latter important privilegeს. At that time Subari was slammed for this criticism by some lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parities.
Subari responded MP Gogorishvili that the only reason why the religious freedom was not addressed in his most recent report was that there had not been cases of violation of religious rights during the reporting period – first half of 2008.