07TBILISI2452, THOUSANDS PROTEST OKRUASHVILI ARREST, SAAKASHVILI

WikiLeaks Link

To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.
Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #07TBILISI2452.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2452 2007-10-01 12:57 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3369
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2452/01 2741257
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011257Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7788
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 002452 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/01/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: THOUSANDS PROTEST OKRUASHVILI ARREST, SAAKASHVILI 
DEFENDS HIS GOVERNMENT 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 2437 
     B. TBILISI 2415 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (U) Summary: On September 28, several thousand people took 
part in a demonstration against President Saakashvili's 
government and the arrest of former Defense Minister Irakli 
Okruashvili on corruption charges (ref A).  All opposition 
parties participated, except the New Rightists.  Saakashvili 
returned from the UNGA on September 29 and gave a brief 
address expressing his disappointment with Okruashvili's 
"lies" (ref B) and insisting no one, including Okruashvili, 
was above prosecution for corruption.  The President then 
traveled to the Upper Kodori Gorge to celebrate completion of 
the new road, where he gave a speech defending democracy and 
rule of law, and responded to Russian President Putin's 
comments about the protests and criticism of Georgian 
democracy.  Saakashvili predicted that he would see Georgia's 
reunification with Abkhazia and South Ossetia during his 
Presidency by peaceful means.  End Summary. 
 
----------- 
The Protest 
----------- 
 
2. (U) On September 28, all major opposition parties, except 
the New Rightists, joined in a public protest against 
President Saakashvili's government and called for the unity 
against his policies.  Irakli Okruashvili's "political" 
arrest on September 27 (ref A) was the rallying point. 
However, Saakashvili and his team were the target of the 
joint demonstration and speeches.  Every opposition leader 
accused Saakashvili of abandoning the Rose Revolution's goal 
of democratic reform in favor of pursing autocratic power. 
Separately, David Gamkrelidze of the New Rightists held a 
separate press conference in which he denounced the 
corruption of both Okruashvili and Saakashvili.  Gamkrelidze 
called for constitutional regime change via elections, rather 
than protests.  The theme of pro-opposition, rather than 
pro-Okruashvili, predominated during the day. 
 
3. (SBU) Emboffs attended the protests, which lasted more 
than four hours.  They estimated the size of the crowd as up 
to 10,000 people, although media estimates ranged lower by a 
few thousand.  The audience was very diverse, with all ages 
and both genders well represented.  All of the speakers 
insisted on peaceful action, and we observed no violence or 
arrests firsthand.  However, two confrontations between 
police and individuals were shown on TV.  Shortly before the 
protests took place, Parliamentary leader and Saakashvili 
ally Giga Bokeria warned that any violence would not be 
tolerated by the government.  Okruashvili provided a 
statement by proxy from jail, claiming he is a "political 
prisoner" and calling for unity to remove Saakashvili's 
corrupt government.  Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the Labor 
Party, made a grand entrance and was enthusiastically greeted 
by the crowd.  Okruashvili's wife, Irina, and sister Maia 
were both present.  Although approached by the press, they 
did not speak to the crowd.  We observed approximately 400 
police officers, consisting mainly of traffic and community 
police.  Additionally, many non-uniformed men were present 
wearing "Criminal Police" and SOD (Special Operations 
Department) shirts or vests.  The police primarily 
congregated in front of the Tbilisi School #1, blocking 
Rustaveli avenue.  At one point it appeared they were 
organizing into formations, but they had largely dispersed by 
the time we left.  Approximately 12 buses of riot 
police/military personnel were parked one-half mile away.  We 
never saw any of these police on the streets or near 
Parliament. 
 
4. (U) A spokesman for the Georgian Orthodox Church's 
Patriarchy, David Sharashidze, called on demonstrators to 
remain peaceful.  However, he also objected to Okruashvili's 
insinuation that Saakashvili is opposed to the Orthodox 
Church, saying that using the Church for political means is 
"totally unacceptable." 
 
5. (U) Both Bokeria and Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava publicly 
argued that Okruashvili suspected he was soon to be arrested, 
and therefore made his serious accusations in order to gain 
political cover for himself.  Deputy Prosecutor Nika Gvaramia 
added that someone who is arrested for corruption could not 
be considered a political prisoner.  A taped conversation 
between Dmitri Kitoshvili (Saakashvili's Parliamentary 
Secretary, who was arrested for extortion on September 24) 
 
SIPDIS 
and Okruashvili was aired on TV by the government as evidence 
of their collusion in corrupt activities.  The conversation 
only established that the two were in communication with each 
 
TBILISI 00002452  002 OF 003 
 
 
other, and did not detail the alleged illicit sale of shares 
of the mobile phone company Geocell.  Friday afternoon, 
Kitoshvili was released on bail of GEL 10,000 (USD $6,000). 
(Comment: Bail itself, and especially at this low figure, is 
rarely given in corruption cases.  End comment.) 
 
---------
------------------------------------ ----- 
Saakashvili Returns, Criticizes Russia from Kodori 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
6. (U) On September 29, President Saakashvili returned early 
from UNGA and gave televised remarks on Okruashvili's 
announcements and subsequent arrest.  He appeared resolute 
but in control.  He described Okruashvili's actions as 
personally difficult, since Okruashvili should know better 
than anyone his allegations of corruption were a lie. 
Saakashvili said Georgia enjoys freedom of press but people 
with a clean conscience cannot be blackmailed.  He called 
Okruashvili's arrest a clear message that untouchable people 
do not exist in Georgia, but stated he had no intention of 
interfering in the judicial process.  He added if any person 
fails to respect the law, regardless of any statements the 
person may make, the state will perform its duties. 
 
7. (U) Saakashvili traveled the same day to Upper Kodori, to 
mark the completion of a new road connecting Samegrelo to 
Upper Abkhazia.  He used the opportunity to respond to 
remarks made by Russian President Putin.  From his residence 
in Sochi, Putin said that he hoped mass protests in Georgia 
would be peaceful and without bloodshed.  Putin said Russia 
would not like to experience Georgia's "western" type of 
democracy.  In response, Saakashvili referred specifically to 
the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and 
highlighted freedom of the press in Georgia.  He continued, 
saying that unlike Russia, Georgia is rooting out and holding 
responsible corrupt officials, regardless of their influence. 
 Saakashvili pointedly referred to Russian involvement in 
Georgian affairs in the 1990s, stating that traitors within 
the country and outside have led Georgia to lose control over 
the separatist regions, and nobody will be able to provoke 
civil confrontations again because the "Georgians had already 
taken Russia's prescribed medicine before, and it was poison." 
 
8. (U) In a surprisingly strong addendum, Saakashvili said 
that "during my presidency, I will complete the process of 
Georgia's unification and the country's territorial 
integrity," although by peaceful means. 
 
----------------------------- 
The Republicans on Next Steps 
----------------------------- 
 
9. (C) On October 1, Poloff met with MP David Berdzenishvili 
of the opposition Republican Party.  Berdzenishvili commented 
that in one week Okruashvili has became the leader of the 
opposition.  He said that being in jail is Okruashvili's 
optimal position, as it insulates him from the public's 
scrutiny and "unfortunate accidents."  Berdzenishvili noted 
that the arrest and protests have indeed hurt Saakashvili's 
standing.  Had Okruashvili not been arrested, his party would 
have been but one more in the political spectrum. 
Furthermore, he said the electorate is keen enough to note 
that Saakashvili has not addressed Okruashvili's charges 
regarding his uncle, Temur Alasania, former MP Gelashvili's 
beating (reputedly on the order of Merabishvili), or the 
death of former Prime Minister Zhvania.  Berdzenishvili was 
aware of the recent IRI poll and the drop in Saakashvili's 
government's ratings.  He said that the recent combination of 
events is further discrediting Saakashvili's government.  He 
noted that Parliamentary Speaker Burjanadze is the only 
high-level member of Saakashvili's government who has not 
publicly addressed Okruashvili's arrest. 
 
10. (C) Berdzenishvili again pointed out his and the other 
opposition parties', concerns about the government.  In 
addition to the party-list threshold of 7 percent, the 
entirety of the Central Election Commission being affiliated 
with the ruling National Movement (UNM), and the proposed 
majoritarian "winner-take-all" system for next year's 
elections, he said the country's courts are in "catastrophic 
condition."  He claims that if a true combination of internal 
and external pressures combine, then the country "could have 
real elections."  Berdzenishvili said that his party would 
prefer to see Parliamentary elections in May 2008 -- rather 
than in the fall along with the Presidential election.  This 
would restore the current Parliament's original term of four 
years (Saakashvili extended it to five, in order to  combine 
it with the Presidential election.) 
 
11. (C) Berdzenishvili summed up, saying that "the U.S. 
 
TBILISI 00002452  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
should not be perceived as a supporter of Saakashvili, but as 
a supporter of the country, and the Georgian people."  When 
asked if the Republicans are working with the other 
opposition parties, Berdzenishvili stated that they are 
communicating, but have not yet formed a joint bloc.  They 
will wait to see if the election code is either changed for 
the better, or if the previous election code is reinstated. 
He advised that the Labor Party will support the group on the 
Okruashvili issue, but they will run independently in the 
election. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
12. (C) There have been no other protests since the large one 
on September 28 at Parliament.  The opposition parties are 
discussing the idea, and are considering additional rallies 
in November.  Some would prefer to act sooner. 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: