Georgian Dream parliamentary majority group voted down on May 14 a proposal by UNM opposition lawmakers to set up an investigative group in the legislative body to probe into illegal wiretapping cases.
Rustavi 2 TV aired on May 10 portions from wiretaps of phone conversations of current and former high-ranking officials, lawmakers and businessmen, among them parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili and Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, which the TV channel said was provided by an anonymous source and which proved that practice of illegal wiretapping is continuing under the current authorities as well.
Prosecutor’s office said on May 11 that it opened criminal investigation into “illegal obtaining and dissemination of recordings of private communication.” The Interior Ministry and prosecutor’s office claimed that “portable eavesdropping devices” were lost from the Interior Ministry just before transfer of power following the 2012 parliamentary elections and suggested that those alleged eavesdropping devices might now be in hands of those affiliated to the previous authorities.
Some of the UNM lawmakers, who spoke during parliamentary debates over their proposal to set up the investigative commission, said that illegal surveillance practice was a problem under the previous authorities and it still remains under the GD government. They said that instead of investigating the case, the law enforcement agencies, capable of carrying out wiretapping, are now trying fabricate the case in order to cover up the crime by blaming opposition of being behind eavesdropping on high-ranking officials.
UNM MP Sergo Ratiani, who presented the proposal, told GD lawmakers during the debates that cases of illegal surveillance showed “real face” of the current government and “this face is so unpleasant to look at that you even prefer to claim that you are powerless” and blame opposition of being behind illegal wiretapping.
“Even if your absurd version [that eavesdropping was carried out with devices now under control of UNM-affiliated elements] is true, then we are facing even worse situation and you should be demanding resignation of Prime Minister and interior minister, because country’s security is concerned,” MP Ratiani told GD lawmakers.
He also said that “reputation” of personally parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili, who was among those whose phone calls were wiretapped, may also suffer if the Parliament fails to react.
Usupashvili, who has not yet commented on the issue since wiretapped recordings emerged on May 10, was not present at the parliamentary session on Wednesday when lawmakers were debating setting up of the investigative commission.
“You are starting talking about past nine years when you don’t have arguments,” UNM MP Akaki Bobokhidze told GD lawmakers, referring to a speech by GD MP Eka Beselia who focused in her remarks during the debates mainly on wrongdoings of the previous authorities.
MP Beselia, who chairs parliamentary committee for human rights, said that there is no need of parliamentary probe as investigation launched by the prosecutor’s office is still ongoing.
“Let’s wait for its results,” she said. “I will also have a protest if the investigation fails to show results and I will also demand a [parliamentary] probe in that case.”
Another senior GD lawmaker, Giorgi Volski, said that UNM’s goal is to “discredit” the state institutions and there is no reason in setting up of the parliamentary investigative commission, because opposition MPs would use this mechanism for achieving this purpose.
“Commission will not bring any result. It will be one more mechanism created for struggle against the state,” MP Volski said and added in reference to UNM: “It is impossible for a destructive force to create anything positive. So there is no need for such commission.”
GD MP Gedi Popkhadze said that the commission should not be established because it would be used by UNM for politicization of the process, which will not help to establish the truth.
UNM lawmakers were offering to include in the commission civil society representatives as well.