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Բանկից փորձել են 1 մլն եվրո հափշտակել. հայտարարվել է հետախուզում

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Բանկից փորձել են 1 մլն եվրո հափշտակել. հայտարարվել է հետախուզում

ՀՀ քննչական կոմիտեի ՀԿԳ քննության գլխավոր վարչության վարույթում քննվող քրեական գործով բավարար ապացույցներ են ձեռք բերվել առ այն, որ խարդախությամբ փորձ է կատարվել «Էյչ-Էս-Բի-Սի Բանկ Հայաստան» ՓԲԸ-ից հափշտակել առանձնապես խոշոր չափերի գումար՝ 1 մլն  եվրո։

Դեպքի վերաբերյալ հաղորդումը ՀՀ քննչական կոմիտեն ստացել է  «Էյչ-Էս-Բի-Սի Բանկ Հայաստան» ՓԲԸ-ից՝ 2018 թվականի մայիսին, ըստ որի՝ քաղաքացու կողմից ներկայացվել է բանկային կեղծ մուրհակ՝  1 մլն եվրո վճարելու պարտավորության վերաբերյալ։

ՀՀ քննչական կոմիտեի ՀԿԳ քննության գլխավոր վարչությունում հարուցվել է քրեական գործ, և ձեռնարկվել մեծածավալ քննչական գործողություններ՝ դեպքի բոլոր հանգամանքները պարզելու, բազմակողմանի, օբյեկտիվ և լրիվ քննությունն ապահովելու ուղղությամբ։

Արդյունքում պարզվել է, որ օտարերկրյա քաղաքացին, 2018թ. ապրիլին ժամանելով Հայաստան,  տարբեր անձանց հետ հանդիպում

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Միջպետական և հանրապետական նշանակության բոլոր ավտոճանապարհները բաց են

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Միջպետական և հանրապետական նշանակության բոլոր ավտոճանապարհները բաց են

ՀՀ տրանսպորտի, կապի և տեղեկատվական տեխնոլոգիաների նախարարությունը տեղեկացնում է, որ նոյեմբերի 20-ին՝ ժամը 1

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Սամվել Մայրապետյանի անձնական հաշիվներից է տարիներ շարունակ ուղիղ ֆինանսավորվել հեռուստաընկերությունը. Հ2-ի պարզաբանումը

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Սամվել Մայրապետյանի անձնական հաշիվներից է տարիներ շարունակ ուղիղ ֆինանսավորվել հեռուստաընկերությունը. Հ2-ի պարզաբանումը

Հայկական երկրորդ հեռուստաալիքը պարզաբանում է ներկայացրել ՀՀ վարչապետի պաշտոնակատարի մամլո ասուլիսի ժամանակ հ2-ի լրագրողի հարցին ի պատասխան Նիկոլ Փաշինյանի հնչեցրած մտքի վերաբերյալ.

Թե Հայկական երկրորդ հեռուստաալիքի անձնակազմի, թե ԶԼՄ-ների ղեկավարների բաց նամակների մեջ և թե մոտ հինգ տասնյակ մտավորականների անձնական երաշխավորություններում խոսք է գնում ոչ թե գործի կարճման կամ չբացահայտման մասին, այլ ընդամենը Սամվել Մայրապետյանի խափանման միջոց կալանք

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Նիկոլ Փաշինյանը՝ Սերժ Սարգսյանին «բռնելու» մասին. ՏԵՍԱՆՅՈՒԹ

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Նիկոլ Փաշինյանը՝ Սերժ Սարգսյանին «բռնելու» մասին. ՏԵՍԱՆՅՈՒԹ

«Ասում են՝ բա ինչի՞ Սերժ Սարգսյանին չեք բռնում, հիմա որ ասեմ մյուս շաբաթ կբռնեն, կասեն՝ ահա, քննության նկատմամբ ճնշումները սկսվեցին, չի փոխվի էս երկրում ոչ մի բան։ Չբռնեցին, կասեն, հա՜ պայ

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PM promises to write off ₾1.5 billion in debts for 600,000 Georgians

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PM promises to write off ₾1.5 billion in debts for 600,000 Georgians

Mamuka Bakhtadze (/OC Media)

Georgia’s Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze has announced plans to write off ₾1.5 billion ($570 million) in unpaid loans for ‘over 600,000’ people blacklisted by Georgian banks.

At a press conference on Monday, Bakhtadze said the programme would cover the debts of blacklisted people where the initial loan was ₾2,000 ($760) or less, which he claimed covered ‘almost 95%’ of debts on the blacklist.

‘We are talking about the financial liability of over 600,000 citizens to banks, online organisations, and other financial institutions, amounting to ₾1.5 billion.’

‘With today’s decision, this ₾1.5 billion worth of debts will be zeroed for our citizens. This includes almost 150,000 socially vulnerable people and tens of thousands of disabled Georgian citizens.’

According to Bakhtadze, the programme will start on 15 December and conclude by the end of the year.

Bakhtadze hailed the ‘high social responsibility of the banking system, non-banking system, and debt collection agencies’ for agreeing to the proposal after ‘long negotiations’.

Bakhtadze thanked the Cartu Charity Foundation, ‘without which this very big initiative would not have been possible’.

The Cartu Foundation, as well as the bank by the same name, is owned by the family of Georgian Dream party chair Bidzina Ivanishvili.

In recent years, anti-corruption watchdogs like Transparency International — Georgia have been critical of the fact that many former employees of companies associated with Bidzina Ivanishvili have been appointed to all branches of the government.

This has included the head of the State Security Service, Vaghtang Gomelauri, and former prime ministers Irakli Gharibashvili  and Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

‘Today’s decision will enable hundreds of thousands of our citizens to fully participate in country’s economic and social life, which will make our economy more sustainable, and our banking and financial sector — healthier’, Bakhtadze told journalists.

Soon after the prime minister’s announcement, Finance Minister Ivane Machavariani followed up with a statement clarifying that the Cartu Foundation would ‘fully buy out’ the debts and that it would not be a burden for taxpayers.

Nine days before the election

The announcement came nine days before Georgians go to the polls for the second round presidential election.

In the first round, Salome Zurabishvili, who has been endorsed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, narrowly defeated the opposition United National Movement’s (UNM) Grigol Vashadze, winning 39% votes to 38%.

Salome Zurabishvili (Mari Nikuradze /OC Media)

On Sunday, a day before the PM’s announcement, Vashadze demanded the government ‘immediately write off’ the debts of those who were unable to pay and were blacklisted by banks.

In parallel, UNM chairman and the former President Mikheil Saakashvili promised to halve mortgage interest rates and slash Georgians’ debts to micro-finance companies.

Later that day, Georgian Dream General Secretary Kakha Kaladze accused the opposition of stealing a policy they were about to announce, labelling Vashadze’s initiative a ‘clone show’.

Kaladze insisted it was a sign of a ‘panic’ from the UNM after they secretly learned of a ‘massive and principled decision by the government’.

Zurabishvili hailed the initiative, adding that easily available loans available online ‘needed regulating’.

‘Vote buying’

Mikheil Benidze, chair of election watchdog the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) accused the government of ‘vote buying’.

Benidze told OC Media that this latest announcement went beyond abuse of administrative resources, citing the mass character of the promise, the timing, and the Cartu Foundation’s relation to ruling party chair Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Transparency International — Georgia and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association also labelled the initiative ‘vote buying’.

(Mari Nikuradze/OC Media)

According to Benidze, this initiative was ‘not the first instance’, but added that the opposition was also responsible for ‘populist’ statements during the election period.

‘The government and local authorities have unveiled 11 new social and infrastructural projects between the first and second rounds of the election. The timing indicates they were aimed to garner support of voters’,

‘It is also unfair and discriminatory to those who barely make ends meet and still pay their debts’. Benidze said.

‘These problems should be dealt systematically, not with one-time, short-term initiatives that incentivise citizens to take loans with the hope of the government or some other party covering their debts again. It is also uclear what kind of negotiations the government led with businesses and how voluntary their participation was’.

Georgian Dream leaders indicated on Monday that they had failed to reach an agreement with Vivus, one of the largest microfinance organisations in Georgia, but that talks would continue.

Besik Shengelia, Chair of the Georgian Microfinance Association, told online outlet Business Media Georgia that the government held no such consultations with them.

According to him, the authorities held meetings with several banks and big microfinance organisations on Saturday to discuss the idea.

Sergi Kapanadze, leader of the opposition European Georgia Party, also accused the government of ‘buying votes’. He said he expected Ivanishvili to gain back the money from Georgia in other ways.

Kapanadze also expressed concern that the government’s initiative would encourage people to take loans irresponsibly.

Presidential candidate Grigol Vashadze called the announcement a ‘desperate stunt motivated by fear of losing’ the run-off election. He claimed that Georgian banks themselves write off bad debts annually.

Living in poverty

During his press conference, Bakhtadze insisted that without addressing excessive indebtedness, fighting poverty and problems facing Georgian children would yield no results. He cited a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study ‘suggesting a causal relation’ between the two.  

UNICEF’s Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) released in July said that ‘an estimated 4.3% of all households, or 5.0% of the population, 6.8% of children and 3.7% of pensioners, live below the extreme poverty line’.

The study also found that every fifth child in Georgia lived in a household where their basic needs were not met.

According to official statistics, 21% of Georgians lived below poverty line in 2016, living on below ₾83 ($31) a month.

[Read more about UNICEF report on OC Media: Georgian street children are ‘used as shields’ in crimes]

Bakhtadze claimed he had talked about the problem already while finance minister, and reminded the public that Ivanishvili also addressed the issue after his return to politics.

(Mari Nikuradze /OC Media)

Soon after his comeback to formal politics in July, Ivanishvili accused recently departed Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili of lobbying for the banks. He said that Georgia’s two largest banks, Bank of Georgia and TBC were ‘eating up the whole country’.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in 2015, 68% of adults in Georgia had active loans, and 30% of these borrowers had already been blacklisted.

Ivanishvili said in summer that the UNICEF and IMF reports made him realise how many Georgians still lived in poverty and named it among the reasons for his return to politics.

Since then, the Georgian Dream chairman has insisted that given the levels of poverty and unemployment, the economy lagged behind democracy in Georgia.

‘Individuals and society should have not only freedoms of expression and other democratic values I could mention, but also the ability to realise them’.

In April, the National Bank of Georgia introduced restrictions on banks handing out loans regardless of a potential borrower’s ability to meet their debt obligations.

The government under Bakhtadze later initiated further legal amendments limiting the terms of mortgage and consumer loans.

Georgian Muslim leader detained in Azerbaijan

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Georgian Muslim leader detained in Azerbaijan

Mirtaghi Asadov (Facebook)

Georgian Shia Muslim leader and frequent government critic Mirtaghi Asadov was arrested in Azerbaijan last week under unclear circumstances. Local rights groups have questioned the Azerbaijani Government account of his arrest and demanded Georgia intervene.

On Wednesday, over 14 Georgian rights groups, including GYLA, EMC, and TDI, urged Tbilisi to ‘immediately take all measures’ to ensure Azerbaijan grants Asadov a fair trial, access to a lawyer and family members, and his protection from inhuman treatment during his pre-trial detention.

Asadov, a Georgian citizen, is an active Muslim community leader who has been highly critical of the Georgian government. He chairs the Supreme Religious Administration of Muslims of All Georgia, a Shia Muslim group.

On Friday, Georgia’s Foreign Ministry told news site Liberali that the Azerbaijani authorities had not notified them about Asadov’s arrest, but that the Georgian Consulate was ‘in contact with the family and is working on the issue’.

The Georgian Public Defender’s Office told OC Media that they had communicated with their Azerbaijani counterpart, who recently visited Asadov in detention.

They said they will continue to work with the Georgian Foreign Ministry and to monitor the situation.

Georgia’s Interior Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Contradictory stories

According to the Azerbaijani authorities, police arrested Asadov on 8 November on charges of petty hooliganism and disobeying police, after he was confronted loudly cursing on his phone on Aliyadee Street, in Baku’s Narimanov District.

Authorities said he had admitted his guilt, and Narimanov District Court had placed him under 30-day pre-trial detention.

The Georgian rights groups said they had doubts about the official version of events. Asadov’s family claim he was actually detained on 7 November, while crossing the Red Bridge border checkpoint between Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The family said the taxi driver who transported Asadov and his companions, had told them that after waiting for an hour, Azerbaijani police officers told him they would take Asadov to Baku themselves.

The rights groups said the official account ‘does not correspond to reality’, and that Asadov was in police custody since 14:00 on 7 November.

Asadov reportedly gave up his Azerbaijani citizenship about two years ago but regularly visited family members residing in Azerbaijan.

Asadov’s wife, Shahana Hajiyeva, who lives in Baku, claimed Asadov had contacted her and informed her about his arrest on 7 November, and later became unreachable.

For four days afterwards, the family did not know his whereabouts and failed to receive any information from the Georgian interior and foreign ministries or the Georgian Public Defender’s office.

On 12 November, Hajiyeva informed the Georgian Embassy in Baku about the problem.

On the same day, police gave Asadov’s lawyer a notice of his arrest.

‘We still know nothing about his health or his treatment at the time of detention or afterwards. Considering the numerous international reports on systematic practices of inhuman and degrading treatment and impunity in Azerbaijani prisons, this situation is alarming and extraordinary’, read the joint statement from Georgian rights groups.

Georgia’s Evangelical Faith Church and Evangelical Baptist Church joined calls for the Georgian Government to find Asadov and ensure his peaceful return to Georgia.

On Thursday, supporters launched an online petition demanding the Georgian government intervene.

‘Asadov is a citizen of Georgia. However, until now, the Georgian government has done nothing to support him’, reads the petition.

Government critic

Asadov has been actively critical of the Georgian Government over their religious policy towards Shia Muslims, the majority of whom are ethnic Azeris.

The Supreme Religious Administration of Muslims which Asadov heads was among the eight plaintiffs who successfully sued the government over their policy of providing preferential tax and property privileges to the Georgian Orthodox Church.

On 3 July, Georgia’s Constitutional Court ruled that articles of the tax code exclusively exempting the Orthodox Church from paying VAT when building, renovating, and painting churches were unconstitutional, as they constituted discriminatory treatment of religious groups by the state.

The groups also successfully challenged state property laws that allowed only the Georgian Orthodox Church to be granted ownership of state property free of charge.

Asadov was also a vocal critic of the Administration of Muslims of All Georgia (AMAG), which is unrelated to the Supreme Religious Administration of Muslims of All Georgia.

AMAG, which receives financial support from the Georgian government, claims the power to choose two Muftis (Sunni Muslim leaders) as well as a top Shia leader — a Sheikh in Georgia.

A number of Sunni Muslim groups have also been critical of AMAG for their attempt to represent all Muslim communities in Georgia within one organisation.

[Read from Maia Urushadze and Bennet Clifford on OC Media: Georgia’s Muslim authority should represent the interests of Georgia’s Muslims, not the government’s]

Asadov campaigned against a policy supported by the Georgian State Agency for Religious Issues that limits compensation for damages incurred by Soviet anti-religious policies to muftiates, representatives of Sunni communities.

Human rights and religious freedom advocacy groups like the Tolerance and Diversity Institute and EMC have been critical of the Agency for their opaque and selective restitution of religious property, accusing them of showing favouritism towards the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Asadov has been passionate about reforming Georgia’s approach to regulating construction and ownership of religious buildings in the country, including the Imam Ali Mosque in Marneuli, a southern town with a majority ethnic Azerbaijani population.

In 2014, SARI facilitated the transfer of the Mosque to AMAG, leaving local Shia community members unhappy.

On 15 November, SARI released a statement, denying allegations the Georgian authorities may have benefited from Asadov’s disappearance.

Analysis | Georgia’s imagined tolerance

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Analysis | Georgia’s imagined tolerance

Queer rights groups on 17 May 2018 (Mari Nikuradze/OC Media)

A new survey from CRRC-Georgia suggests there is a gap between the perception and reality of intolerance in Georgia.

Hate crime regularly makes the news in Georgia. The recent murder of Vitali Safarov, the harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has put the country in the European Court of Human Rights, and the 2013 riots on the International Day Against Homophobia all come to mind.

Yet, Georgians also pride themselves on examples of tolerance in the country’s history. This contradiction — pride in tolerance despite an apparent lack of it in many cases — is reflected in data CRRC-Georgia recently collected for the Council of Europe.

To understand attitudes towards different minority groups, the survey asked respondents whether they would approve of someone like them doing business with 24 different minority groups. Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and people of ethnicities not traditionally associated with Europe or the Caucasus were generally less approved of than peoples from Europe and the Caucasus.

People with disabilities were the most approved of minority group.

The groups people approve of least were also the groups the public thinks are most likely to be the victims of hate crime and the targets of hate speech.

When asked how often specific groups are the victims of hate crime and the target of hate speech, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses topped the list.  When asked, who do you think is the target of hate speech most often in Georgia, LGBT people were named more often than any other group. The same is true of hate crime.

While these perceptions likely reflect the situation surrounding hate crime and hate speech to a reasonable degree, they are also likely mistaken to a certain extent.

For example, the vast majority of the public (91%) reports positive attitudes towards people with disabilities. In line with this pattern, only 2% of the public reported that people with disabilities are often the targets of hate speech and 2% the victims of hate crime.

Yet, as a person with a disability interviewed within the study stated, ‘Hate speech is part of our everyday life. Ingrained. Firmly established.’

It is not possible to generalise from a single interview, yet a gap between minority and majority perspectives on the challenges minorities face are not present only when it comes to people with disabilities.

The survey asked what the most significant issues a variety of groups faced were. While 41% of men reported that women faced no issues 28% of women did.  29% of ethnic Georgians reported that ethnic minorities faced no issues compared with 10% of ethnic Armenians and 12% of ethnic Azeris. 44% of Orthodox Christians reported that religious minorities faced no issues compared with 17% of Muslims and 20% of non-Orthodox Christians.

How the question was asked is important here. Respondents were provided with a list of potential responses and allowed to name other issues. However, that they face no issues was not part of that list, meaning that people actively reported the above groups face no significant issues rather than selecting one of the options from the list. If they face no issues was part of the list, a larger share of the public likely would have selected the option.

There are many plausible causes of the gap between minority and majority perceptions. A lack of contact between groups is one potential source. While this survey did not ask about contact with different minority groups, previous surveys show that those who are in touch with minorities often have more positive attitudes towards them (e.g. with LGBT people and with migrants).

A second potential cause is the portrayal of minorities in the media, which frequently contains hate speech.

No matter the precise reasons for intolerance in Georgia, these potential causes also suggest potential solutions.

First, increasing contact between minority and majority groups has the potential to decrease the animus people express towards minorities. Second, the media could remove hate speech from its discourse. Further, they could take the positive step of providing more detailed coverage of the problems minorities face in Georgia, thus directly informing the public.

Finally, highlighting the contradiction between Georgians’ pride in tolerance and the hate crime which takes place in Georgia all too often has the potential to encourage the public to question their own views.

Dustin Gilbreath is the Deputy Research Director of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of the Council of Europe or any related entity.

The data used in this article are available here.