Tbilisi City Court will announce its verdict into a complaint filed by billionaire-turned-politician Bidzina Ivanishvili against President Saakashvili over his and his wife’s citizenship case on December 27.
Ivanishvili has appealed the court requesting annulling President Saakashvili’s October 11 order number 602 stripping him and his wife, Ekaterine Khvedelidze, of their Georgian citizenship.
The Civil Registry Agency at the Georgian Ministry of Justice announced on October 11 that Ivanishvili lost his Georgian citizenship after the agency learnt from the billionaire's October 7 written statement that after receiving Georgian citizenship in 2004 he then also obtained the French citizenship. It said that the move was carried out based on article 32 of the law on Georgian citizenship, according to which obtaining a citizenship of other state by a Georgian citizen results in loss of the Georgian citizenship. On the same day, October 11, President Saakashvili signed an order stripping Ivanishvili and her wife of their Georgian citizenship.
The cases of Ivanishvili and his wife are different, but have been heard by the court jointly because both of them were stripped of their citizenship through the same, single presidential order.
The difference is that if Ivanishvili obtained his French citizenship in March, 2010 – five years and nine months after President Saakashvili granted Ivanishvili Georgian citizenship with an order dated with June 10, 2004 – Ivanishvili’s wife already held the French passport at the time when she was granted Georgian citizenship through a presidential order on June 24, 2004. Ivanishvili’s legal team says that if there was a legal pretext based on which the billionaire was stripped of his Georgian citizenship, there was not a single such pretext in case of his wife.
Ivanishvili’s legal team listed 40 instances of what they claimed were violation of laws and procedures by the authorities while stripping Ivanishvili and his wife of citizenship and accused President Saakashvili of taking politically-motivated decision against the political opponent. With no Georgian citizenship, Ivanishvili has no right to either establish or finance a political party.
Ivanishvili’s legal team mainly built its case on an argument that it was illegal for the authorities to be guided by article 32 of the law on Georgian citizenship while deciding on stripping a citizenship to a person who had obtained his Georgian passport through a special decree from the President. Ivanishvili’s lawyers argued that the provision of the law should be applicable only to natural-born Georgian citizens or those who have obtained Georgian passport through naturalization.
Defense lawyers representing the president’s office, however, argued that there was no legal basis for making exceptions from the article 32 of the law on citizenship, which should be applicable equally to everyone no matter how a person obtained his Georgian citizenship.
“I rule out presence of any personal interest from the President while taking this decision,” Tinatin Siradze, a lawyer representing the president’s office, told the court at a hearing on December 22. She said that there was not a single provision in the legislation based on which an exception should be made for persons who have their citizenship through a presidential order.
During the hearings Ivanishvili’s legal team was insisting on the authorities to present cases, if any, when a person was stripped of Georgian citizenship, granted by the presidential order; no such case was presented to the court and Ivanishvili’s legal team said it was the unique case of this kind in Georgia.
During the hearings Ivanishvili’s legal team twice filed a motion for recusal of a judge Shota Getsadze, 29, accusing him of bias in favor of the authorities; the motions were rejected.
If court rules against Ivanishvili’s appeal and keeps the presidential order in force, the billionaire politician will have an option of appealing for the Georgian citizenship directly to the President. Ivanishvili had such an intention, but changed his mind apparently pending the court proceedings.
Since 2004 the constitution allows the President to grant citizenship to a foreign citizen “for special merits” before Georgia or if such move is motivated by “the interests of the state.” This same provision was applied when President Saakashvili granted Ivanishvili the Georgian citizenship in 2004.
According to the law on citizenship, the President should decide whether to grant or not a person citizenship within three months after submitting the application for citizenship.
According to the law, reasons for refusal for granting Georgian citizenship are if a person “has committed an international crime against peace and humanity”; “has taken part in a crime against the state” or if granting of a citizenship would be “inexpedient” from the point of view of state and public security.