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Tbilisi totally tapped?

A debate is raging in Georgia over a fight between the right to privacy and the so-called protection of national security.

The country’s opposition claims they are being wire-tapped and the Interior Ministry is keeping an eye – and an ear – on everyone they think is even slightly suspicious. Others say the planting of listening devices can be a necessary evil.

The current situation is that whenever a phone is answered in Georgia, there may be more than two people on the line.

“I'm being tapped constantly, since I'm one of the most ardent opponents of President Saakashvili, and the ruling party's enemy number one,” claims Georgian opposition leader Georgy Khaindrava. “I'm being watched around the clock, they keep tabs on everything I do and say, even in my own home.”

Khaindrava is not the only opposition leader to claim their activity has sparked the Ministry of Interior's interest.

In July, Georgia's Conservative Party said listening devices were found in their headquarters.

The leader of the opposition Conservative Party, Kakha Kukava, says “Devices, not only in our office, but in other political opposition parties’ offices were found – recorders and transmitters in electric sockets.”

Even though wiretapping is illegal in Georgia, five months have gone by and no progress has been made in a criminal investigation that was launched.

“There's only one law enforcement body in Georgia, the Ministry of the Interior, and everybody knows they're tapping everyone in Tbilisi, even the city’s phone lines,” continues Kakha Kukava. “They’re recording not only conversations of politicians and opposition activists, but also of ordinary people, too.”

Recently, yet another opposition party proposed some oversight of the Ministry of the Interior and their activities when it comes to surveillance.

“Phone tapping and visual surveillance should be monitored,” demands Nika Laliashvili of Christian Democratic Party of Georgia. “It's also important that a monitoring group controls the legitimacy of supply and usage of received information.”

But some in Georgia believe this kind of surveillance is a necessary evil.

Political expert Niklaoz Chitadze says “The Georgian constitution prohibits wiretapping, unless it’s warranted, but it’s necessary for Georgia’s National security.”

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