19 Nov 2012
Several Georgian police chiefs and the former deputy interior minister have been arrested after allegedly hacking and spying on former opposition leaders to influence election results, according to the Agence France Presse.
The 11 interior ministry officials and the ex-minister, now vice mayor of Tbilisi, are suspected of infecting their opponents with malware capable of stealing personal data. The investigation also revealed Georgian officials were illegally intercepting phone conversations. The recordings leaked on YouTube show the coalition leaders criticizing one another.
The police officers and politicians are also suspected of hacking the computers of several religious organizations.
"A fierce campaign of political persecution is ongoing," said a senior lawmaker from President Mikheil Saakashvili's party, as quoted by the AFP. Western leaders have also expressed concern about power abuse. European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso warned the new prime minister, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, to avoid "selective justice."
The detentions are the latest in a series of arrests of officials serving under Saakashvili, who remains in his post until October next year. Ivanishvili’s coalition won the elections after a nine-year rule of Saakashvili’s party.