The US military may have explored gay defense strategies, but Georgian prosecutors allege that Georgia's military police once made ample use of a disturbing strategy of its own -- gay honey traps to seduce socially prominent men and then blackmail them into "cooperation" with President Mikheil Saakashvili's government.
The Prosecutor’s Office claims that the military police, under their former chief, Megis Kardava, secretly filmed the private lives of homosexual men to coerce them into becoming secret agents. The recruited hommes fatales would then ensnare male targets into having sex with them and record it on camera, the allegation goes. The military police even supposedly took the trouble to hire apartments to make many reels of such rendez-vous, which would mean that Georgian taxpayers would have paid for the trysts.
Politicians, showbiz celebrities and other public figures were among the victims, according to General Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili, who said that his office started looking into the matter after one victim complained to the police.
Prosecutors said that they are looking at a very large stash of, well, gay porn, and are pressing charges against top military police officials.
“To make sure these videos don’t become public, the blackmailed victims of the conspiracy were agreeing to publicly voice their support for the political regime and take part in the publicity events of the previous authorities,” the Prosecutor's Office said.
To dispel any doubts about the veracity of their claims, prosecutors released to Georgian TV stations blurred videos depicting the goings-on at the allegedly secret apartments. No other evidence has been released to the public, nor a clear connection established for them between the individuals charged and the broadcasted videos.
But their broadcast has sparked an outcry over invasion of privacy.
Despite the blurring, the men in the videos can still be identified (in a public-television talk show, Kbilashvili denied it), and minority rights groups argue that, in this highly religious country, the videos could put those filmed at a real security risk.
Ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili has slammed the Prosecutor’s Office for releasing the video evidence and requested law enforcement officials to exercise more caution in their future handling of the case. Thinking back to the recent prison abuse scandal (which, many believe, helped bring Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream into power), Interior Minister Irakly Gharibashvili, though, argued that their release was "perhaps necessary," Tabula reported.
Presidential spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze also criticized prosecutors for releasing the videos, but did not comment further about the charges. Kardava's attorney has denied the accusations.
A political disclaimer, though, is in order here. Georgia is caught in a political feud between President Saakashvili and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, which has prompted questions about the motivation for many of the accusations brought against former officials from the pre-Ivanishvili era. Arguably, revelations of misconduct by these individuals could help the prime minister’s party proceed with attempts to reduce the president’s constitutional power and influence.
That said, gay blackmail is believed to be a time-honored KGB method, which, some commentators say, outlived communism in much of the ex-Soviet Union, including in Georgia, where conservative cultural mores present ample opportunities to exert pressure.
In 2009, an investigative reporter with a small, regional newspaper in Georgia came out with accusations of being blackmailed by a police investigator in a similar way to the tactics now ascribed to the military police. Charges were never pressed.