Tbilisi City Court on Tuesday upheld a presidential order stripping billionaire opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili of his Georgian citizenship, but also said the part of the same decree revoking Ivanishvili’s wife of the citizenship was illegal.
Ivanishvili’s lawyer, Eka Beselia, said the ruling would be appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Another option for Ivanishvili to try to restore his Georgian citizenship – required for him to personally establish a political party and to participate in election campaign – is to appeal directly to President Saakashvili, who has to respond to the application for citizenship within three months. But as Beselia indicated proceeding through court was at this stage a priority.
President Saakashvili has once already granted Ivanishvili citizenship back in 2004. 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.”
At the time of receiving citizenship from the President in 2004, Ivanishvili was a citizen of Russia. In March, 2010 Ivanishvili also received the French citizenship, which formally became a reason for stripping of his Georgian citizenship nineteen months later.
In his written statement on October 7 in which he laid out reasons behind his decision to go into politics, Ivanishvili also said that he was going to revoke his French and Russian citizenship. Four days later, on October 11, the Civil Registry Agency at the Ministry of Justice said it learned from Ivanishvili’s statement that the billionaire obtained French citizenship after receiving the Georgian one, which was a violation of the article 32 of the law on citizenship. Information about Ivanishvili’s French citizenship was publicly available at least from March, 2011.
On the same day, on October 11 President Saakashvili signed an order stripping Ivanishvili of his citizenship – the move condemned by Ivanishvili and his supporters as a politically-motivated decision aimed at excluding an opponent from the political processes.
The cases of Ivanishvili and his wife were 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 was that if Ivanishvili obtained his French citizenship after getting the Georgian one, his wife was granted citizenship by President Saakashvili when she already was the citizen of France, thus not violating the article 32 of the law on citizenship which was cited by the authorities as a reason behind stripping Ivanishvili of his Georgian citizenship.
If at some point Ivanishvili decides to appeal President Saakashvili for citizenship, the President should decide whether to grant or not citizenship within three months after the application for citizenship is submitted.
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.
Ivanishvili completed process of revoking his Russian citizenship on December 26 and now he remains the citizen of France.