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Kidnapping of Azerbaijani journalist cracking down Georgia’s image

Georgia is in a flurry these days, as oppositionist journalist Afgan Mukhtarli who fled political persecutions in Baku and sought shelter in Georgia’s territory has by some miracle appeared in prison in Azerbaijan. Public outrage is natural, as Georgia, as a sovereign state, received a public slap in the face from ally that often behaves as a senior brother who does not care for dignity of his junior brother when it comes to interests of ruling clans. A person was kidnapped from the territory of Georgia and jailed in his motherland. Who is behind that “brilliant operation?” Georgian opposition blames the government which, in turn, came out with a disclaimer. Interior Minister of Georgia Giorgi Mgebrishvili has categorically refuted suggestions that the law-enforcement officers might be involved in disappearance of the Azerbaijani journalist. Realizing the damage the incident has caused to Georgia’s image, Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili came out with a series of statements.

“As head of the government, I prioritize measures to find answers to all questions. Investigation has been launched in the incident, and it is in favor of our country to ensure maximum transparent investigation…We will not concede this achievement and will do our best to protect the rights of everyone in our country, irrespective of citizenship and political views,” the prime minister said in his first statement.

The prime minister - chairman of the ruling Party Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia emphasized that Georgia comes out as a legal and democratic state that protects human rights and strives to Europe. The government said what it was expected to say, but whether it is sufficient to restore the damaged image of Georgia?

After the journalist was abducted and forcefully taken to Azerbaijan and jailed there, President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili said (at the request of the prime minister) he is ready to offer Georgian citizenship to Afgan Mukhtarli’s wife, who naturally declined the proposal. Leyla Mustafayeva exactly substantiated her rejection.

“I refuse from Georgian citizenship. I will have to refuse from Azerbaijani citizenship, I don’t want to do it. If I sought Georgian citizenship, I would get it earlier. Last year, I asked a residence permit from Georgia, but they rejected my request. They said I am engaged in dangerous affairs and it is not in favor of Georgia to provide me a residence permit. Actually, I am no longer dangerous, as my husband was jailed. Don’t make a show. Let them investigate the case properly,” Leyla Mustafayeva said.

Who will “stone” the woman who dared to tell the bitter truth and reprimand Georgia’s government.

Afgan Mukhtarli’s lawyer Archil Chopikashvikli appealed to Chief Prosecutor of Georgia Irakli Shotadze demanding that the abduction case is transferred to the Prosecutor’s Office from the Interior Ministry which, as Mukhtarli’s family says, may be involved in the incident.

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U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly expressed concern about the incident saying the Embassy is closely following the developments and received guarantees from Georgia’s government that Azerbaijani opposition representatives in Georgia will be protected. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy and Security and EU Ambassador to Georgia Janos Herman too expressed their concern over the abduction.

Georgia is turning into a country of paradoxes and the Azerbaijani journalist’s abduction was another political paradox – opposition United National Movement started supporting the abducted journalist. The paradox is clear to everyone in Georgia – when in power, UNM did its best to make Georgia dependent on Azerbaijan. They had no time to make that dependence full – Georgian people’s instinct for self-preservation activated suddenly and the election of 2012 resulted in a change of power.

Now, the supporters of the third president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili have an opportunity to counteract. One of UNM leaders Salome Samandashvili said such special operation could not happen without consent of the prime minister.

“If our law-enforcement agencies were not involved in that special operation, this means that our security system has failed and anyone can be abducted from Tbilisi. The only adequate answer is immediate resignation of the interior minister and security service chief,” Samandashvili said.

It is unbelievable that representative of UNM that once prioritized the relations with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev makes such statements. UNM did its best to oust Gazprom from Georgia – it paid 10% of gas transit to Armenia – and replaced with Azerbaijani gas. UNM packed prisons with political rivals, torturing them to death and killing many in the streets, restaurants, anywhere. Now, “nationalist” Givi Targamadze blames ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivsanishvili’s relative for organizing the abduction allegedly to help its high-ranking partner in Azerbaijan.

It is no secret that Azerbaijan’s authorities spare no expense to achieve their political goals. What happened to Mukhtarli cost big money. How much should they have paid to billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili to make him involve in such dirty undertaking - it isn’t anything like him?

Georgian Dream’s Government has been fairly criticized for many times already. It gave another reason for criticism. The law-enforcement system should have not allowed abduction of a foreign oppositionist from the area of its responsibility. It happened and competence of many persons engaged in security system is questioned. It is inadmissible for the country.

Irakli Chkheidze (Tbilisi) for EADaily

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