The servers and computer processors taken from the office of the United National Movement on February 23 remain in the Ministry of Internal Affairs until now. Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections, nor will they know what happened to the large amount of information that came to the attention of the authorities.
The case concerns the recordings of dozens of indoor and outdoor cameras stored on the server for 4 months. The memory trains were taken away by the police from the party office so that no one could see them. Members of the United National Movement discovered this later, after the end of the special operation. They do not yet have a court order establishing a legal basis for the search of the office and the apparatus, nor have they handed over to the police any protocols for the sealing of equipment and information processing.
On the day the servers and processors were removed, it is true that police said they needed to remove them because of the ongoing investigation, though they did not specify which investigation was meant. On the fourth day after the removal of the equipment, on February 27, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said that the removal and sealing of the servers was part of an investigation launched under Article 353 მეორე 2 of the Criminal Code into the fact that there was a danger of destroying evidence. The lawyer of the United National Movement claims that no other investigative action was taken by the police except the seizure of the servers, and that this “ongoing investigation” is fictitious.
Vano Petriashvili told RFE / RL that the Ministry of Internal Affairs formally launched the investigation only to remove camera footage from the office of the state opposition party in a way that did not constitute political persecution or interference in party activities. He said that such fictitious investigations are an accepted practice and with the help of such cases “covert” wiretapping and listening is declared. Investigative actions and a large part of such cases start and close in such a way that the public can not even understand about them. Vano Petriashvili, a lawyer of the United National Movement, talks to Radio Liberty about the circumstances why this case is not even formally held:
“It may not be interesting to investigate the information from 4 months ago, which these servers also include” – says Vano Petriashvili. “It was 4 months, 6 months or 2 years, what does it matter to Maga. We took it out, we will look at it, we will return it, we will not take this material. We were not irritated, we took it out according to the law ” – This is how the Minister of Internal Affairs, Vakhtang Gomelauri, answers the question of Radio Liberty about the amount of information extracted.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs claims that it is investigating cases of disobedience to the police during the arrest of Nika Melia on February 23 at the party office and those in the office – the servers store several months of recordings from internal and external cameras, which means that the police took , Which may be used for political persecution and discrediting individuals;
“We will never know how long this information will be stored, how many times it has been multiplied, with whom it is stored – we will never be able to answer these questions. The uniqueness of the investigative action is that the seized evidence must be sealed upon opening and must be opened in the presence of the person with whom the investigative action was conducted and then sealed again if it is to be opened, for example for examination. “When this does not happen, this information is released into free fall,” the party’s lawyer fears.
“We saw the information and we return it, we do not bring it” – This is how the Minister of Internal Affairs responds to these fears.
The police removed the servers and the voluminous information on them without a court order, however, within 24 hours after the operation, the court recognized the police action as lawful. When it comes to disclosure of information to a political party and its activities, the law protects a higher standard than any other structure.
The party’s lawyer has not yet seen the protocol for removing the equipment that was supposed to be taken from the party office, or any other protocols, such as sealing the equipment or processing the information on it – nor does he know what the investigation did to the information stored on the servers. Copies were made to be stored if processed and used at various times as compromising for example against individuals who held meetings at the party. The Interior Ministry only said that they had informed the party representatives that they could return the equipment if they reported to the ministry and since no one had responded to this notification, they also sent a letter requesting to appoint a legal representative of the party to hand over the technical means removed from office. The party’s lawyer says the Code of Criminal Procedure does not oblige a party to go to an investigative body to seize items belonging to them, and the police can return the equipment themselves if they deem it necessary.
“The Ministry of Internal Affairs actually looted and took away what was not related to the arrest of Nika Melia or the investigation into the group resistance to the police. It is illegal for a judge to declare this lawful. How can a judge consider this lawful and without the participation of the organization in the process where the search and seizure took place. If the lawfulness of an investigative action is questionable, the Code of Criminal Procedure provides for the involvement of a person in a trial by a judge against whom law enforcement may have acted unlawfully. As it happened, it only proves that the state authorities acted in concert to commit this lawlessness. ” – says Vano Petriashvili.
Political justice is also questioned by the fact that when the judge ruled on the legality of removing the servers, journalists were already talking about illegally obtaining information from the party office, and the judge could have involved party representatives in the trial – the court hearing was not interesting.
The United National Movement, after removing the servers from its office, wrote to the Public Defender, the Office of the State Inspector General and the Prosecutor General’s Office on the same day to inquire about the incident and begin an investigation into the lawfulness of law enforcement actions.
The party also demanded that the prosecutor’s office grant victim status and involve them in the ongoing investigation. He asked the state inspector to respond to the law enforcement officers’ excessive use of force and violation of the standard of information protection.
The United National Movement does not have the status of a victim so far, and the Office of the State Inspector told RFE / RL that the investigation of the investigation and the action of the Service during the investigation is beyond the competence of the State Inspector and he will not investigate the case.
RFE / RL could not answer specific questions from the Ministry of Internal Affairs:
- What amount of information was on the servers and processors;
- What part of this information was processed and what part was destroyed;
- On the servers returned by the police, the information that was recorded on them at the time of its removal is still stored.
Also noteworthy in terms of the response of state agencies is the fact that the party has refused to provide bailiffs with the National Bureau of Enforcement of the Ministry of Justice – a service that is particularly valuable in that it is held urgently at any time of day and their findings are used as evidence.
The service allows at any place and time, instead of a specific amount, to call the specialists of the National Bureau of Enforcement, who will come and describe the situation and the situation that you will meet at a specific time and place. The protocol drawn up by them is admissible as evidence in legal disputes. The Ministry of Justice accepted the written request of the party and confirmed its acceptance, although it did not come to the party to provide this service almost two weeks after the incident.