Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili commented today on the kidnapping of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli from Georgia to Azerbaijan. Civil society groups are loudly criticizing the Georgian government, saying it is complicit in Mukhtarli’s kidnapping, as he was forcefully taken across the border without a passport. Mukhtarli’s lawyer, Elchin Sadikov, accused the Georgian government of violating international law by allowing Azerbaijani special forces to detain Mukhtarli while he was on Georgian territory.
On May 31st, an Azerbaijani court gave Mukhtarli three months pre-trial detention. He was taken to an isolation cell directly from the courtroom.
Prime Minister Kvirikashvili said that he “exclude[s] the possibility that [Georgia’s] state institutions were involved” in the kidnapping, and said they awaiting the conclusions of the investigation.
The prime minister told the public and civil society who are criticizing the Georgian government that “it is unacceptable to have early conclusions [about the case]. It is especially unacceptable in this case to discredit the state institutions working in security.”
Activists demonstrated earlier today in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs building in Tbilisi. The protesters demanded that the Head of the State Security Service answer their questions regarding what happened to Mukhtarli when he was kidnapped.
Minister of Justice of Georgia Tea Tsulukiani addressed the accusations against the Georgian authorities. She said that she has seen “alarming accusations… against our law enforcement authorities,” and that this includes a “surprising Facebook from the Ombudsman of Georgia.”
“I absolutely exclude [the possibility of] the involvement of Georgian law enforcement authorities in this,” Justice Minister Tsulukiani said.
Ombudsman Nanuashvili wrote on his Facebook that “this makes me feel that no one is protected in this country… If the Georgian government didn’t know about [the kidnapping], it is alarming. And if it did know about it, it’s even more unfortunate,” Nanuashvili wrote.
Head of State Security Service Vakhtang Gomelauri told journalists yesterday that Mukhtarli crossed to Azerbaijan at the ‘green border line,’ which is not an official checkpoint. He said a passport is not required to cross.
The director of Transparency International Georgia, Eka Gigauri, responded that Gomelauri’s statement demonstrates that Georgia’s borders are not well protected. She claims it demonstrates a larger problem because even under normal circumstances, trespassing the green border line is problematic.
Movement for Liberty - European Georgia member Sergi Kapanadze criticized the Georgian government for not taking responsibility over the case:
“As it turns out, we don’t have a government. If nobody takes responsibility for this, which started from the State Security Service ended with the Government of Georgia, then it turns out that we don’t have any pride and our country has slipped out of our hands,” Kapanadze said.