Georgia: First Daughter Claims Drug Raid Aimed at President Giorgi Margvelashvili

Georgia (EAN) – Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s daughter, Ana Margvelashvili, has accused the police of fabricating evidence of illegal-drug possession against her friends and family members in possible retaliation against her father’s refusal to side with the ruling party.

In a March 21 TV interview, the First Daughter alleged that police had planted 18 pills of Subutex, a synthetic opioid, on her close friend, Mikheil Tatarashvili, while other friends and her brother-in-law, Mindia Gogochuri, had been threatened with the same scenario.

Her proof hinges on what she says are eyewitness accounts and a cell-phone video of plainclothes police officers charging into a regional restaurant to search members of the group, and haul off Tatarashvili. He has been charged with possession of large quantities of illegal narcotics.

“When family and friends of a man who has a different perspective are being persecuted like this, there is probably some kind of connection,” Margvelashvili, 24, commented to Rustavi2, a station critical of the government.

Interior Minister Giorgi Mghebrishvili dismissed her allegations, saying that “nobody is planting anything.” He underlined that being “someone’s daughter” or holding a government office will not provide immunity against criminal prosecution.

Margvelashvili’s accusation comes amidst a brushfire between her father and the ruling Georgian Dream over his veto of a controversial bill that would create a government agency to carry out surveillance of targets designated by the State Security Service. President Margvelashili argued that the legislation did not provide for independent oversight of such surveillance, which, critics say, has long been used as a political weapon against government opponents.

Parliament on March 22 overrode the president’s veto.

The president has long been at loggerheads with the Georgian Dream and its oligarch founder, Bizdina Ivanishvili, over his five vetoes of bills proposed by the party, and other political differences.

But whether or not those differences could lead to police-intimidation is open to debate.

Last year, President Margvelashvili charged that the authorities had tried to intimidate him by searching the car and apartment of his step-daughter’s husband, Mindia Gogochuri, for illegal firearms. The interior ministry denied the allegation, saying they had acted on a tip.

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But, somehow, the police interest in critics of the Georgian Dream keeps on coming.

On March 16, a day before the Tatarashvili arrest, the sons of Eliso Kiladze, a UNM-friendly journalist known for her criticism of the Georgia Dream, and of UNM member Khatia Dekanoidze, were also arrested on drug charges.

Kiladze alleges that police falsified the evidence to make the arrest and try “to end my journalistic work.” Dekanoidze, a Saakashvili-backed migrant to Ukraine who formerly served as its national chief of police, claims that her own son is being used in a “trade” against “my values.”

On March 22, the president’s daughter and Kiladze showed up at a Tbilisi rally where participants sewed their pockets shut to protest what they said was the common practice of police planting drugs. “I am here to support my friend, who… had been unfairly and illegally detained, and I intend to stand by him to the end and by everyone who faced a similar problem,” Margvelashvili said of Tatarashvili.

Even before the Georgian-Dream era, activists and opposition members accused Georgia’s police of falsifying drug-crime evidence for political purposes or as part of the country’s harsh campaign against illegal narcotics.

Whether under Saakashvili or the Georgian Dream, however, the government has denied any wrongdoing.

This report prepared by Giorgi Lomsadze for Eurasianet.org