On December 9, 2021, representatives of the Democracy Research Institute (DRI) met with a number of people in Dmanisi to verify the reports about the alleged pressure on Ramiz Ramazanov, a majoritarian MP who entered the Dmanisi City Council with the support of the United National Movement.
Opposition members of the Dmanisi City Council spoke with representatives of the Democracy Research Institute about the cases of pressure on them by members of the ruling party, the police and the State Security Service. Opposition MPs and their relatives have been threatened with dismissal, criminal prosecution and, in some cases, physical retaliation.
Particularly alarming is the coordinated intimidation campaign against opposition MP Ramiz Ramazanov. According to locals, Ramiz Ramazanov, who worked as the principal of a public school in the village of Zemo Oruzmani in Dmanisi Municipality, was forced to resign and was threatened with criminal prosecution. The Mayor of Dmanisi, the State Security Service, the police and locals with criminal authority were jointly involved in the intimidation.
As a result of the alleged pressure, Ramiz Ramazanov had not come back home for 3 days. His whereabouts had been unknown to his family members and friends. However, today, on December 10, the MP showed up at the Dmanisi City Council sitting and supported the representative of the ruling party for the position of City Council Chairman, although until December 9, he had shared the position of the nominating party on boycotting the City Council session.
DRI considers that the alleged role of Dmanisi Mayor Koba Muradashvili in the intimidation is concerning. In 2020-2021, Koba Muradashvili worked as the head of the Guria and Kakheti Police Departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to media reports, he has held senior positions in the law enforcement agencies in the past (mainly during the ruling of the United National Movement) and has been engaged in secret wiretapping and surveillance of specific individuals. Koba Muradashvili's participation in episodes of persecution and harassment of local opposition MPs raises reasonable suspicions about the active involvement of the State Security Service in the ongoing political processes in the region.
DRI notes that the cases of harassment, intimidation and threats against teachers, employees of local governments and public sector during the election and post-election period have unfortunately become a trend. It is especially noteworthy that according to the locals, those involved in intimidation are mainly representatives of the State Security Service and the police. The use of the above-mentioned methods by the law enforcement agencies increases the radicalization of the population, instills hopelessness and minimizes trust in the law enforcement agencies.
DRI calls on the relevant institutions to investigate the cases of alleged political persecution of opposition MPs in Dmanisi and other regions and to ensure that the public is informed about the ongoing processes.