The South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders

Georgia: MIA High Official Denies Pressure Upon Journalist Fled from Georgia
Levan Zhorzholiani

Shota Utiashvili, Head of the Georgian Interior Ministry's information and analytical department denies pressure exerted by the Ministry upon journalist Vakhtang Komakhidze.

Responding to the GPB First Channel journalist (within the program Dialogue with David Paichadze) whether the special service staff was spying on Vakhtang Komakhidze at the Tbilisi International Airport when leaving for Switzerland Utiashvili said the MIA staff was definitely present at the airport but it had nothing in common with Komakhidze's departure.

"The police staff are always patrolling at the airport whether Komakhidze is leaving or staying in the country," Utiashvili said.

Early in February Vakhtang Komakhidze, head of the Reporter studio asked the Swiss authorities for political asylum citing the threats leveled by MIA staff against his family and himself in person as a motive.

"The threat was followed after my visit to Tskhinvali together with Mr Paata Zakareishvili and Ms Manana Mebuke in the course of which I gleaned important material on the August war 2008.

Persecution and spying boosted to such an extent that when leaving for Geneva at 4:00 from Tbilisi airport I was being seen off by almost a whole staff of the Constitutional Security Department of MIA including its most prominent faces," reads the statement by the journalist.

Vakhtang Komakhidze is currently residing at the refugee camp in a French canton in Geneva

Reporting to the First Channel correspondent Utiashvili said that when leaving Tskhinvali the law enforcers conversed with Komakhidze on the territory controlled by Georgia "but the conversation was not of an official character." The MIA official added the law enforcement bodies were not concerned about the reasons of Komakhidze's stay in Tskhinvali. Shota Utiashvili also denied the fact of interrogation of the investigative journalist.

"We have not got in touch with him to glean info about his work, since we don't meddle into the journalist's activities," said Utiashvili. In addition, according to him, Komakhidze had no state secret and the Ministry of Internal Affairs was not aware of the footage made by the journalist in Tskhinvali.

"It is incomprehensible to us what could be new in the footage by Komakhidze, what could be worse than tens of documentaries made Russians accusing us of numerous sins," MIA official added.


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