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article imageGeorgia rocked by sex video scandal ahead of polls

By Irakli Metreveli (AFP)     Mar 14, 2016 in World

A political scandal has rocked pro-Western Georgia after a sex video of an opposition party member was posted online and other politicians received similar threats, just months before parliamentary polls.

A secretly recorded video posted on YouTube Friday appeared to show a female leader from the opposition Free Democrats party making love to a partner who was not the prominent politician's spouse.

The pro-Western Free Democrats confirmed that the person in the video was one of its members but did not give any more details.

The Georgian political establishment received another jolt on Monday when a new video emerged threatening to leak sex tapes of two politicians from the ruling coalition, another opposition politician and a prominent journalist.

The journalist, Inga Grigolia, said the threat "will not silence" her.

"I will do everything to send those who have filmed these videos and who have (released) them to jail for many years," she said.

Access to YouTube was briefly blocked for users in Georgia earlier Monday.

The tiny ex-Soviet nation has a history of covertly filmed videos being released to tar political opponents ahead of elections and leaders pledged to investigate the latest incident.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili said the "entire government system, with all its resources, is mobilised.... and the crime will soon be solved."

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili condemned the sex video as a "blow to the state" and "blackmail of the entire society."

"I promise you -- no matter who filmed and distributed this recording -- you will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," he said at the weekend, referring to the first tape.

- Allegations against authorities -

Georgian opposition politician Irakli Alasania  seen here at a conference in Tbilisi on July 16  200...
Georgian opposition politician Irakli Alasania, seen here at a conference in Tbilisi on July 16, 2009, accused the current government the "attacks on politicians"
Vano Shlamov, AFP/File

But the leader of the Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania, accused "certain circles of the current government" of being behind the "attack on politicians."

"Only the authorities could have access to such materials," he claimed.

The scandal has erupted ahead of October parliamentary polls.

"This is a direct and terrible blow to the fair electoral environment, rule of law and human rights in this country," The Georgian Young Lawyers' Association, an influential rights group, said in a statement.

The release of secretly filmed videos of prison guards torturing inmates resulted in the election defeat of then-president Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement party (UNM) in 2012 parliamentary polls by the Georgian Dream coalition led by billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili.

In 2013, then deputy interior minister Gela Khvedelidze was charged with leaking an opposition journalist's secretly shot same-sex video. He was given a one-year suspended sentence.

The tape was part of 144 files of secret video recordings of citizens' private lives, which Georgia's Interior Ministry claimed were obtained through illegal surveillance by the previous government.

The ministry said the files were destroyed.

The United National Movement said that the "use of dirty methods in politics ... had become the main weapon against opponents under the government of (former prime minister) Bidzina Ivanishvili" and his Georgian Dream ruling coalition.

Ivanishvili resigned in 2013, although he is widely believed to continue to wield influence over Georgia's politics.

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