Georgian court grants seizure request for wiretap tapes from TV Pirveli involving PM Garibashvili

Georgian court grants seizure request for wiretap tapes from TV Pirveli involving PM Garibashvili. Photo: Bidzina Ivanishvili for Georgia/Facebook., 11 Mar 2021 - 20:14, Tbilisi,Georgia

Tbilisi City Court has granted the Prosecutor’s Office’s request for the seizure of audio tapes which allegedly feature a wiretap of a conversation between current PM Irakli Garibashvili, former head of the Georgian Dream party’s son Bera Ivanishvili and other high-ranking officials. 

The conversations, which may date back to 2011, focus on an alleged intimidation campaign to ‘humiliate and punish’ youngsters for online posts insulting the Ivanishvili family.

Per the ruling, the package featuring the audiotapes, as well as the electronic transmitter containing the tapes may be confiscated, TV Pirveli reports.  

On March 6, TV Pirveli aired audio conversations of an alleged conversation between newly-appointed PM Irakli Garibashvili, Bera Ivanishvili and head of the Special Service of State Security Anzor Chubinidze.

During a special briefing addressing the Georgian government and diplomatic missions, head of TV Pirveli Nodar Meladze said that the court’s ruling demonstrates that the ‘investigation is not interested in the content of the conversation featured on the tapes’. 

Meladze said that the investigation is not interested in the content of the recording. Photo: TV Pirveli. 

He added that law enforcement agencies ‘are more concerned with who sent the tapes and how.’

This ruling shows that they are not interested in the content of the tapes in question. Rather, they are interested in the envelope, they think that someone brought a ‘flash drive’ in some envelope to our channel, which means that they can use [the envelope] to identify DNA or fingerprints of [the anonymous source who provided the tapes]”, Nodar Meladze said. 

Meladze also explained that the envelope specified in the court ruling does not exist: 

The envelope they are talking about does not exist. What kind of a source [physically] brings material to a TV channel, and leaves a trace like that?”

The court’s ruling allows for the seizure of the recordings ‘by force if necessary.’

Journalists and opposition politicians have already condemned the court ruling.

Inga Grigolia, one of TV Pirveli’s political talk show anchors, was deeply concerned by the court’s ruling, adding that ‘regardless of the ongoing pressure, the channel will continue to operate’. 

Prosecutor General Office has denied the alleged intention to ‘forcibly enter TV Pirveli headquarters.' Photo: Prosecutpr's Office press service. 

Similarly, the founder of the opposition Strategy Agmashenebeli party Giorgi Vashadze condemned the ruling which ‘has nothing to do with the provision of justice.’ 

We believe that such a ruling has nothing to do with the principles of the provision of justice, it is politically motivated and is only trying to prevent the spreading of the information that can be harmful to the authorities”, Vashadze said in an interview with TV Pirveli. 

The official statement of the Prosecutor General Office denies the alleged intention to ‘forcibly enter TV Pirveli headquarters’ and said that any speculation to the effect is ‘a lie which serves to deliberately mislead the public.’

It should be emphasised that the information regarding the Prosecutor's Office intention to forcibly enter the TV channel is a lie and is aimed at deliberately misleading the public. This is confirmed by the fact that the court only issued only a decision regarding the removal of the device carrying a piece of specific electronic information and search warrant”, the statement emphasized. 

The General Prosecutor’s Office also explained that TV Pirveli has a right not to submit the material in question voluntarily, although its cooperation with the investigation “would be preferable”. 

TV Pirveli’s lawyer Giorgi Mshvenieradze announced that the channel will appeal the ‘unconstitutional’ ruling which was delivered by Tbilisi City Court today. He added that TV Pirveli will try to overturn the court’s decision, but that it will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. 

Georgia’s civil society and opposition bloc was outraged by the tapes and demanded an immediate investigation as well as the resignation of PM Garibashvili. 

The ruling Georgian Dream party released a statement saying that the ‘fabrication of the recordings seems to be a careful and long work, saved for the right moment'. 

In an interview with Imedi TV, Bera Ivanishvili said that the covert recordings were produced during the rule of the United National Movement. 

The Georgian Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation into the unauthorized recording of a private conversation, wiretapping, as well as the recording of private communication, illegal use, and dissemination of information obtained through technical means.