09TBILISI1513, GEORGIA: UPDATE ON ALLEGED ATTACKS ON OPPOSITION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1513 2009-08-07 13:58 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7506
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1513/01 2191358
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 071358Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2001
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001513 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/05/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: UPDATE ON ALLEGED ATTACKS ON OPPOSITION 
MEMBERS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C)  Summary/Comment:  For the past week, Post has urged 
the Government to provide more details and investigate 
alleged beatings of opposition activists.  On August 2, 
former Parliamentary Speaker and opposition leader Nino 
Burjanadze from the Democratic Movement-United Georgia (DMUG) 
party informed the Ambassador of four separate incidents she 
categorized as politically motivated attacks against members 
of her party by the government.  The most significant 
incident was the severe beating and kidnapping by masked 
assailants of a well-known Georgian sports figure associated 
with the Burjanadze family.  Post immediately contacted the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) about the accusations, 
but to date has not received any formal response regarding 
the case.  On August 6, the Ambassador told Interior Minister 
Vano Merabishvili that such incidents undermine both the rule 
of law in Georgia and the positive messages delivered by both 
Vice President Biden and President Saakashvili during and 
prior to the VP visit.  Post has, and continues to, 
systematically raise incidents of alleged violence against 
citizens for their political activity with the GOG at all 
levels.  Post continues to stress that proper judicial 
investigations must be performed, especially in cases where 
individuals have been attacked and beaten by assailants. 
After an August 6 National Security Council meeting that 
included members of the non-parliamentary opposition, 
President Saakashvili agreed to an August 12 meeting with 
opposition leaders and law enforcement officials to discuss 
these cases.  End Summary/Comment. 
 
THE INCIDENTS 
 
2.  (C)  On August 3, following Burjanadze's report of the 
beatings of four activists from her party, Poloffs met with 
six members of DMUG's governing council, including secretary 
general Vakhtang Kolbaia, who provided further details about 
the alleged attacks that occurred on August 1 and 2.  The 
first of these incidents involved Archil Rekhviashvili, 
described by the DMUG as a youth coordinator for the party. 
The governing council told Poloffs that Rekhviashvili was 
kidnapped in his own car by four armed assailants dressed in 
camouflage on Hiliani Street in Tbilisi.  They say the police 
were informed of the kidnapping within five minutes of its 
taking place and that the license plate number "WNW 140" was 
provided.  Rekhviashvili was later found beaten severely near 
Bazaleti Lake, about 50 km from Tbilisi. The second incident 
involved Tornike Arikadze, described by DMUG as a party 
member.  The DMUG claimed that police planted a gun on 
Arikadze at a local market and charged him with the illegal 
possession of a weapon.  DMUG said that two other party 
members were also arrested August 1, but that the families 
did not want to give out their names for security reasons. 
One of these party members was also charged with carrying an 
illegal weapon, but they did not know what the other member's 
charge was.  The DMUG claimed that the GOG has started a 
campaign of retribution against the opposition since Vice 
President Biden's visit.  The DMUG also said that it had 
little, if any, response from the police regarding pending 
investigations of the harassment of party members who 
participated in protests this spring and summer. 
 
3.  (C)  The incident drawing the most attention involves 
well-known Georgian karate and wrestling champion Amiran 
Bitsadze and his friend David Bendeliani.  The governing 
council refused to answer direct questions about the 
Qcouncil refused to answer direct questions about the 
relationship between Amiran Bitsadze and Burjanadze's husband 
Badri Bitsadze, but it appears they are related.  They said 
that he had no specific role in the party, but that he was a 
party member.  The DMUG governing council told Post that 
Bitsadze and Bendeliani were driving on Tskhvarichamia street 
in Tbilisi when they came across a micro bus blocking the 
road.  At that point, they report about fifteen to eighteen 
men in masks dragged both men out of the car and severely 
beat them.  Bendeliani was left on the street, but Bitsadze 
was taken away in a car.  Bitsadze was later found on Didi 
Digomi Highway with two bullet-like wounds on his back, a 
broken leg, a broken arm, and what the DMUG called a brain 
injury (likely a concussion).  The DMUG claimed that 
Bitsadze's arm was run over by a car and that a taser was 
used to subdue him.  The governing council provided pictures 
of the wounds on Bitsadze's back which they say were caused 
by GOG rubber bullets.  The DMUG stated that they could not 
provide the bullets themselves because doctors were pressured 
not to provide them.  They claimed the assailants were from 
the GOG because a resident of the Tbilisi neighborhood where 
the kidnapping took place recognized one as an area police 
officer and that one of the vehicles used was recognized as 
belonging to police special forces.  The governing council 
told Post they believe Bitsadze was a target because of his 
association with the Burjanadze family and because he could 
rally support for the party
from the sports and IDP 
 
TBILISI 00001513  002 OF 002 
 
 
communities (Bitsadze is reported an IDP from Abkhazia). 
 
TIME FOR THE MOIA TO DO ITS JOB: INVESTIGATE 
 
4.  (C)  Post continues to take a systematic approach to 
raising the issue with the GOG. After receiving the phone 
call from Burjanadze, Polchief immediately contacted Ministry 
of Internal Affair's Head of Analytical Department Shota 
Utiashvili.  Utiashvili indicated that he had not heard 
anything about the matter, but that he would look into it. 
On August 3, the Ambassador raised the allegations with then 
Acting Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria.  The same day, Poloff 
attended a diplomatic corps briefing about the incidents at 
the Ombudsman's office and continues to be in contact with 
the Ombudsman's office to track protest-related incidents. 
On August 4, Polchief met with Utiashvili to again express 
concern about the incidents and call for an open and 
transparent investigation.  The same night, the Ambassador 
expressed his concern to Speaker of Parliament David 
Bakradze.  Polchief also raised Post's concern over the 
incidents with Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance 
Dimitri Shashkin who is tasked by the GOG with democratic 
reform efforts; Polchief emphasized that continued 
allegations which remain unanswered deter from the Minister's 
reform efforts.  Shashkin told Polchief that he is concerned 
and would discuss the issue with the MOIA. 
 
5.  (C) On August 6, the Ambassador noted the importance of a 
proper investigation into these allegations to Interior 
Minister Vano Merabishvili.  Merabishivili, who had just 
returned from Asia, said he was not familiar with the details 
of the Bitsadze case, but agreed that it was important that 
the case be handled properly, the results of which should be 
made public. The Ambassador told the Minister that unanswered 
allegations -- particularly those involving the police -- 
undermine Georgia's stated commitments to the rule of law and 
suggest that the police are not under control.  Later that 
day President Saakashvili met with opposition leaders at a 
session of the National Security Council and agreed to 
arrange an August 12 meeting to include law enforcement 
leaders to discuss alleged attacks on opposition supporters. 
Post will continue its current practice of documenting 
allegations of harassment and abuse by any faction in its 
Protest Incident Tracker and raising any new incidents at its 
bi-weekly meeting with the MOIA. 
TEFFT

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