Allegedly secret materials of State Security Services of Georgia (SSG) about the clergy were leaked to the media
An anonymous person who claims to be a former employee of the State Security Service released secret materials that contained information obtained as a result of surveillance of clerics on September 13. The text, which is accompanied by dozens of files, states: “We listen to everyone, we collect information about you, we collect compromising information.” Some of the published documents are likely to be reports and dossiers prepared for the SSG Analytical Department.
Documents released by Georgian news agencies cover the supposed information of past and current activities of clerics including business activities, intimacy, sexual orientation and reports about drug addiction.
The documents have various titles, including “Crime and Drug Addiction”, “Threats”, “Lovers”, “Adulterers”, “Situation in Protestant Churches”. The authenticity of the materials remains unconfirmed. At this point, it is unknown who published the materials.
The chairman of the Georgian Dream, Irakli Kobakhidze, called the coverage of the leaked files by the “UNM-affiliated TV stations” an “anti-state affair” aimed at “discrediting the Church.”
Opposition politicians Khatuna Gogorishvili from European Georgia and Mamuka Khazaradze from Lelo confirmed the authenticity of their conversations with clerics mentioned in the recordings. MP Mamuka Khazaradze said that the leaked documents contained his “exact” conversation with one of the bishops, which, according to him, dates back to the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019.
Public Defender Nino Lomjaria condemned the fact that “the security service has the power and there is no effective control mechanism to protect us from their illegal interference in our private life”.
Georgian media reports that the alleged secret recordings released two days ago also contain details of conversations of EU Ambassador Carl Hartzel, US diplomats, Israeli Ambassador Ran Gidor and members of other diplomatic missions.
“Formula TV” said, that one of the files contains the conversations of EU Ambassador Carl Hartzel with his staff, where he speaks about a meeting with clergy scheduled for October 9, 2020, also his conversation between one of the member of his team, where they discuss the situation in the church during the pandemic and the position of the church regarding rituals and ceremonies.
According to “Formula TV”, the secret recordings also decrypt the conversation of the US Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s assistant with the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, who discussed the same meeting with the clergy which was held on October 9.
The “Mtavari Tv” channel stated on September 15 that the secret recordings included internal conversations at the US embassy, including a conversation between the embassy’s public affairs officer Katherine Schweizer and a political affairs officer during the shooting of a video dedicated to US Independence Day. According to the same information, Catherine Schweizer came up with an initiative to include a clergyman in the video
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said on September 15 that his predecessor Giorgi Gakharia and his entourage may have been involved in the leaking of the alleged records of the State Security Service.
The prime minister said the investigation would consider all versions, including whether Gakharia and Alexander Khojevanishvili, Deputy Head of the State Security Service during Gakharia’s administration, participated in secret recordings. Mikheil Daushvili, MP for the party “For Georgia” accused the ruling party of making irresponsible statements as they are making “wrong” hints while the investigation is still ongoing, said Daushvili.
Yesterday, the party “For Georgia” demanded the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry commission to investigate the case of the secret recording and the involvement of the Public Defender and international experts in the ongoing investigation.
In an interview with “Formula Tv” on September 15, Giorgi Gakharia denied that he had any information about alleged “large-scale” wiretaps of foreign diplomats, journalists, teachers and clerics during his rule.