On 24 August the Public Defender of Georgia revealed its findings so far regarding its investigation into former State Security Service (SSG) Deputy Head Ioseb (Soso) Gogashvili’s allegations that he and his family were threatened by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Vakhtang Gomelauri.
The Public Defender’s Office denoted that while Gogashvili revealed the specific time periods of the alleged criminal acts which occurred on 28 July to 5 August to them during a personal interview, and they promptly applied for relevant footage from the N12 Penitentiary to be archived, the Special Penitentiary Service informed them that on the indicated dates the recording devices in the penitentiary were out of order.
The Public Defender believes that this response “raises certain questions and, at the same time, calls into question the protection of the physical safety of the prisoner, who should have been under electronic surveillance for 24 hours.”
“At the same time it is worth noting that the Public Defender’s Office requested the archiving of video camera recordings covering a large area (Ioseb Gogashvili’s movement route, cell, common space, [and] corridor on specific dates),” the Office explained.
“According to the response received, it seems that a large part of the video surveillance recording system of the N12 Facility is actually not functioning, which calls into question the effectiveness of the management of the penitentiary and the safety of the prisoners,” they emphasized.
In line with that logic, the Public Defender called on the Special Investigation Service to study the reasons for which the video cameras malfunctioned in the mentioned period “in order to rule out or confirm the suspicion of [someone] artificially damaging the cameras or erasing relevant records.”
The Public Defender also revealed that they applied to the Prosecutor General of Georgia for an exception to be granted to study all of the materials in the case against Gogashvili, but that their request was refused on 23 August.
“Thus, the Public Defender’s Office will take appropriate legal action as a result of familiarization with the materials presented by the defense side,” the statement concluded.
Gogashvili first voiced the allegations in an 11 August letter that he penned from prison which alleged that ruling Georgian Dream founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, threatened him with the “destruction of his family” if Gogashvili “does not stop” what he is doing and “gives the desired testimony.” Ramaz Chinchaladze, Gogashvili’s lawyer, explained then that the former SSG deputy head was taken to the shower of the 12th penitentiary and instructed to answer the phone sitting on the ledge from which Minister Gomelauri allegedly spoke to and threatened Gogashvili.
On 12 August, the Public Defender’s Office called on the SIS to conduct a timely and effective investigation into the allegations. In the meantime, the Public Defender’s Office urged law enforcement agencies to protect Gogashvili’s family.
For his part, Minister Gomelauri denied the accusations while speaking with journalists on 19 August, and called them “completely absurd.”