Leaked kompromat targets Georgian orthodox Church, journalists and foreign diplomats
On September 14, several major Georgian media outlets reported having received a link to a website a day earlier containing thousands of files of secret surveillance records. A massive cache of surveillance files was allegedly leaked by a former security officer.
According to reports by several Georgian media, the dossiers produced since 2014 mostly pertain to „hundreds“ of religious figures, including top-tier representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church, as well as the staff of Patriarchate, indicating they were monitored closely by the authorities.
According to Tabula, the files were organised in categories entitled „adulterers“, „ties with natsebi“, a pejorative term for members of the formerly ruling United National Movement Party, „LGBT organisations“, „crime and drug abuse“, „Russian influences“, and more, writes the OC Media.
Within a day of the alleged dump of secret files, several media workers, including the director and anchor of TV channel Mtavari, Nika Gvaramia, and another anchor, Eka Kvesitadze, the head of TV channel Pirveli’s news service Nodar Meladze, TV Formula journalist Nino Vardzelashvili, and Tabula editor Levan Sutidze corroborated the reports that concerned their own activities.
According to the leaked files, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, planned to step down in 2020 for unknown reasons. Dimitri Shiolashvili, Patriarch’s nephew and the Head of Batumi and Lazeti Eparchy, “spoke strictly” with Ilia II and dissuaded him from resigning, reads one of the documents.
The alleged report of a security officer eavesdropping on the conversation between Shiolashvili and Patriarch’s aid Davit Chincharauli suggests that the authorities had told the Patriarch’s administration that they deemed Ilia II’s resignation “inadmissible”. The authorities were reportedly worried that it would reflect badly on the “public mood as well as ratings of the government”.
Georgian media outlets later reported that the alleged files of the State Security Service include details on conversations of the EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell, U.S. diplomats, Israeli Ambassador Ran Gidor, as well as employees of other diplomatic missions in Georgia. “This is a very serious matter since it has implications in the framework of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” said Peter Stano, Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union. “We’re taking appropriate steps in this context as we always do in such situations, but given the nature of the alleged incident, we will not say more at the moment,” he added.
The Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office has meanwhile started questioning the journalists from different TV channels after it urged the representatives of various media outlets to cooperate with law enforcers.
The ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party claims that the largest opposition United National Movement (UNM) party stands behind the leaked files calling it a “dirty, anti-state provocation aiming to spark tension in the country ahead of the October 2 municipal elections”.
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated that the State Security Service (SSS) will prevent the surveillance, noting that many people and countries have the opportunity to carry out such activities. The GD also stated that the former PM Giorgi Gakharia, who now leads the For Georgia political party after his resignation in February following a dispute with the ruling party, and the former deputy head of the SSS Aleksandre Khojevanishvili, who is a brother of For Georgia’s member Giorgi Khojevanishvili might be connected to the case.
On September 13, hours after the leaks became available to major local media groups, TV channel Mtavari identified Akaki Nemsadze, who they said was a former SSS employee, as the possible leaker. Mtavari reported that Nemsadze took his own life on July 8 and speculated that he could have arranged for the leak to take place after his death.