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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI1313 2008-08-01 10:42 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #1313/01 2141042
R 011042Z AUG 08

E.O. 12958: N/A 
1. This cable contains current items of political, economic and 
social interest concerning Georgia for the weeks of July 14-August 
Parliament Revokes Opposition Funds 
2. On July 15, the ruling party in Parliament voted to revoke state 
funding for the six opposition parties which refused to enter 
Parliament and formally requested annulment of their mandates.  The 
new law makes the New Rights Party, Freedom Party, Movement for 
United Georgia, Georgia's Way, People's Party, and National Forum 
ineligible for government funding.  The amendment deprives them of 
GEL 600,000 ($428,571 USD) in total.  The Labor Party, whose leaders 
remain MPs and have not relinquished their mandates, is eligible for 
state funding and will receive GEL 500,000 ($357,143 USD).  Other 
parties which will receive state funding include the 
Christian-Democrats, On our Own, and the Georgian Troupe.  The 
latter two were part of the Joint Opposition, but took their seats 
in Parliament.  Most opposition parties have condemned the ruling 
party's initiative as punitive for their decision not to enter the 
new Parliament.  The Conservative Party, Republicans, and 
Industrialists will continue to receive state funding, as they each 
won more than 3 percent of votes in the 2006 local elections. 
Public Defender Delivers 2007 Human Rights 
Report to Parliament 
3. On July 15, Public Defender Sozar Subari presented his 2007 human 
rights report to Parliament.  (Citing a lack of time ahead of the 
May 21 Parliamentary elections, the previous Parliament had refused 
to hear the two bi-annual reports, which are 744 and 633 pages 
respectively.)  Subari spoke about deterioration of freedom in the 
media, violation of property rights, the November 2007 events, and 
the human rights situation in Gali District (of Abkhazia).  Ruling 
party lawmakers attacked Subari.  They called his report 
"incompetent and politically biased in favor of the opposition," 
saying it discredits the ombudsman's institution.  The opposition 
New Rightists (NR) denounced Parliament's reaction to the report. 
According to the NR, the ruling party's response to the public 
defender's report demonstrates official ignorance of human rights 
problems in the country and is "one more confirmation of the 
authorities' non-democratic nature."  The statement also demanded 
Parliament and the authorities stop attacking those institutions and 
persons who publicize human rights violations. 
Wanted Ex-Governor Seeks Asylum in France 
4. Mikheil Kareli, former regional governor of Shida Kartli and 
close friend of ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, was released 
from jail in Paris on July 31.  Kareli reportedly turned himself in 
to French police to request political asylum on July 24.  The 
General Prosecutor's Office alleged French police arrested Kareli, 
and claimed it was preparing an extradition request for him.  Kareli 
was fired as governor on September 12, 2007.  Ten days later he was 
arrested and charged with bribery and illegal business practices. 
In October 2007 he plead guilty and was released on GEL 200,000 bail 
(over USD 122,000).  In November 2007, Kareli reportedly jumped bail 
and was sought by Georgian law enforcement.  It is unclear where 
Kareli has been since November, or how and when he entered France. 
His appeal for asylum and the government's extradition request are 
Ex-Priest Released from Jail 
5. Defrocked Orthodox priest Basil Mkalavishvili was released from 
prison early on July 25, after serving four years of a six-year 
sentence.  Mkalavishvili was arrested in 2004 and found guilty of 
masterminding and carrying out organized violence against Jehovah's 
Witnesses and Baptist-Evangelists, and burning their religious 
literature.  Mkalavishvili was excommunicated from the Georgian 
Orthodox Church in 1995, after he criticized church leadership for 
not taking a "radical stance" towards religious minorities. 
Construction Begins on Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railroad 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
6. On July 24 in Kars, Turkey, Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili of 
Georgia, Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, and Abdullah Gul of Turkey 
inaugurated the construction work on the Turkish section of the 
Kars-Tbilisi-Baku (BTK) railroad.  The countries signed an agreement 
on the railway in February 2007, with service expected to begin in 
2010.  The three presidents expressed hope that the BTK railway 
would contribute to peace and prosperity in the region.  Georgian 
President Mikhail Saakashvili said the BTK railway "will be 
Georgia's window to Europe."  The railroad will increase continental 
trade through the East-West Transport Corridor.  Most forecasts 
suggest tha
t within two years of construction the volume of 
TBILISI 00001313  002 OF 002 
transport will reach 2 million tons, and this could increase to 8-10 
million tons within three more years. 
7. The construction of the railway will also open markets in the 
Mediterranean region and Southeast Europe for Azerbaijan, Georgia, 
and Central Asian states.  In addition, the project has significant 
geopolitical significance.  As was the case with energy projects, 
interstate railways will raise questions of common security threats 
and require collaborative efforts to address these threats.  The 
trilateral cooperation between Ankara, Baku, and Tbilisi will more 
closely integrate transportation and security arrangements between 
the three countries and the West. 
Georgian Bar Association Plans Changes 
8. The Georgian Bar Association (GBA) conducted a strategic planning 
meeting July 25-27.  They discussed leadership and management 
issues, and the current Chairman's pending departure on a USG Muskie 
Scholarship.  The Executive Council of the GBA, following 
organization bylaws, prepared for the eldest member of the Council 
to become the new Chairman until elections are held this fall.  The 
Executive Council also discussed potential amendments to GBA bylaws 
and Georgian law governing the GBA.  Discussions focused on using 
delegates to replace the current system, which requires a General 
Assembly of more than 1600 advocates to conduct Association 
business.  The Executive Council agreed to meet more frequently and 
finalize the proposed amendments prior to Parliament reconvening in 
late September. 
Russians to Open Border Crossing in September 
9. According to Georgian media reports, Moscow has decided to reopen 
the only legal customs and border checkpoint of Verkhni Lars (Upper 
Lars) on the Georgian-Russian border (near Mt. Kazbegi and the town 
of Stepantsminda).  Russia stopped overland traffic at the crossing 
in early June 2006 as part of economic sanctions against Georgia. 
At the time, Russia said the closing was officially due to 
reconstruction of the checkpoint.  Reopening the crossing will allow 
resumption of cargo and passenger bus services through the North 
Ossetian stretch of the Russia-Georgia border.  (Note: There is no 
word on the resumption of agricultural and wine exports, per the 
Ministry of Agriculture.  End note.)  The route is important not 
only for Georgia but Armenia as well.  Georgia's Foreign Ministry 
has conducted negotiations on reopening the checkpoint since April. 
Reportedly, Russia was not planning to reopen the border earlier 
than December, but moved up the date to September.  Russia resumed 
air and sea transportation with Georgia earlier this year. 


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