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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI559 2009-03-23 12:27 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0559/01 0821227
O 231227Z MAR 09 ZDK

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000559 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
     B. TBILISI 378 
     C. TBILISI 089 
TBILISI 00000559  001.2 OF 002 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
1.  (C)  Summary/Comment:  At roughly 5am on March 23, a 
number (roughly six to eight but exact numbers are still 
unclear) of Nino Burjanadze's supporters were arrested on 
charges of buying automatic weapons.  Burjanadze called the 
Ambassador to register her outrage and to express concern 
that she was being targeted by the Government.  The 
Ambassador contacted Foreign Minister Vashadze, Deputy FM 
Bokeria and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) Head of the 
Analyitical Department Shota Utiashvili to ask about the 
reports.  Utiashvili told the Ambassador that the MOIA had 
incontrovertible evidence that Burjanadze supporters were 
purchasing illegal arms, namely automatic weapons. 
Utiashvili said that a press conference would be held at 6pm 
local time to present its version of events and to present 
the evidence; Utiashvili confirmed that Burjanadze herself is 
not a target of an investigation.  Burjanadze has contacted 
Ombudsman Subari with a request for help, and he has 
scheduled a 5 pm press conference.  Post believes it is too 
early to draw any larger conclusions regarding the arrests, 
but will continue to follow events.  End Summary/Comment. 
Burjanadze Alleges Arrests Aimed at Her 
2.  (C)  An extremely agitated Nino Burjanadze called the 
Ambassador to express her outrage at the arrest of her 
supporters on weapons charges.  She maintained that those who 
had been arrested had nothing to do with guns.  Burjanadze 
stated that she had feared such an event based on the GOG's 
public campaign to discredit her by saying that she was 
planning violence at the April 9 protest rally.  She further 
stated that she would be calling others in the international 
community to express her outrage.  Burjanadze said her 
husband's driver had also been arrested on charges of having 
an automatic weapon at his home.  She told the Ambassador 
that she feared she would be arrested and her house would be 
searched.  She said that if the police came, she would resist 
and call on the international community to send 
representatives to her home. 
Government Says Illegal Weapons Purchased 
3.  (C)  After Burjanadze's call, the Ambassador contacted 
Foreign Minister Vashadze, Deputy Foreign Minister Giga 
Bokeria and MOIA Spokesman Shota Utiashvili to ask about the 
reports.  Utiashvili confirmed to the Ambassador that 6-8 
people were arrested for trying to purchase Kalashnikov 
machine guns (or other automatic weapons) on the Georgian 
arms market.  He said that the Ministry monitors the market 
carefully and filmed the individuals purchasing automatic 
weapons.  Of those detained, four are members of Burjanadze's 
youth wing in Ajara and two are former members of the 
Georgian Border Guards who were dismissed when Badri Bitsadze 
(Burjanadze's husband and former head of the border guards) 
was dismissed.  (Embassy Note:  One of the former border 
guards was apparently the head of special operations while 
the other headed the Sedalko border crossing point.  End 
Note.).  There are two others who are being investigated, who 
may have no connection to Burjanadze. 
4.  (C)  Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and Deputy Foreign 
Minister Giga Bokeria confirmed the arrests to the 
Ambassador.  Bokeria told the Ambassador that the government 
could not ignore this attempt to purchase illegal weapons and 
that these were "not just Georgians buying hunting rifles." 
No government could sit by and permit this to happen. 
QNo government could sit by and permit this to happen. 
Utiashvili said that there were no senior members of 
Burjanadze's party arrested and added that there was "no 
intention of arresting Burjanadze". 
Dueling Press Conferences 
5.  (C)  Burjanadze held a press conference mid-day in 
Tbilisi to announce that members of the Ajara branch of her 
party were detained, including the head of the Batumi office. 
 Burjanadze told the press that they have been detained on 
charges of illegal storage of arms, but neither lawyers nor 
neighbors were allowed to observe the process of searching 
their homes and businesses for the weapons.  She alleged that 
the Government might widen the search to include her Tbilisi 
party headquarters and her own home.  At the press 
conference, Burjanadze's husband Badri Bitsadze told 
journalists that the Minister of Internal Affairs Vano 
Merabishvili "informed me this morning that the President 
demands my detainment.  He advised me to leave Georgia for a 
month but I am not going anywhere." 
TBILISI 00000559  002.2 OF 002 
6.  (C)  Burjanadze's assistant Thea Gogvadze-Apfel told 
Poloff that Burjanadze had scheduled a meeting with Ombudsman 
Sozar Subari and opposition leaders to discuss the arrests. 
Later, her office called and informed the mission th
at Subari 
would hold a 5 pm Tbilisi time press conference to comment on 
the arrests.  Subari's press conference will be followed by 
the MOIA's press conference at 6 pm during which the 
Government is expected to provide further details about the 
arrests and the evidence. 


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