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Baku Put the International Reputation of Georgia Under Threat

Georgia found itself in a rather difficult situation. The case of Azerbaijani opposition journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who was kidnapped in Tbilisi on May 29 and displaced to Azerbaijan, received an international attention.

The investigative journalist engaged with the corruption cases in Azerbaijan's defensive department moved to Georgia in 2015, against the backdrop of unfolding persecution of journalists and human rights defenders. Information related to the details of Mukhtarli's abduction is contradictory. In particular, rumors of participation in the operation of the Georgian side are actively circulating, which the Georgian authorities deny in every way. In connection with the kidnapping of the journalist, the Georgian Prosecutor's Office has already begun an investigation, but it is unlikely that this will in any way help a journalist who has already been imprisoned for three months in Azerbaijan.

Despite the lack of details of Mukhtarli's abduction and the inconsistency of information, the case is special due to several circumstances. First, the case speaks about the fact that the persecution of Azerbaijani oppositions and journalists is passing to a regional level. There is a fairly logical question: is this the first case of kidnapping? Maybe earlier too, various personalities were moved to Azerbaijan in an incomprehensible way, but those cases did not get public attention.

In addition, the actions were carried out in the territory of a third country. The Georgian authorities found themselves in a rather difficult situation. On the one hand, if it is proved that the Georgian law enforcement agencies also participated in the operation of abduction and displacement of Mukhtarli to Azerbaijan, this will be a direct blow to the democratic image of Georgia. In the case of this scenario, it turns out that Tbilisi helped to the illegal arrest of opposition journalist who fled from the Aliyev regime and from Azerbaijan, where everyone knows what fate awaits the opposition representatives. All this, of course, is a gross violation of human rights, and if this fact is confirmed, there will be a serious blow to Tbilisi's ambitions to become an "island of democracy" in the region.

On the other hand, if it is confirmed that the Georgian state bodies were not involved in the Mukhtarli case, this, in turn, will be a blow to Tbilisi's sovereignty. In this case, it turns out that the third country has taken special actions in the territory of Georgia without the permission of the Georgian authorities, and moreover, even without their knowledge. Can a country become a center of tourism, if the special services of third countries kidnap citizens on its territory? Naturally, all this does not speak positively about the Georgian law enforcement bodies, nor about  Georgian-Azerbaijani friendly relations.

However, the case of Mukhtarli was definitely a blow to Georgia's international reputation, as evidenced by widespread statements and concerns of international structures and individual countries. But the case of the Azerbaijani journalist is still underway, and the results of the investigation initiated by the Georgian Prosecutor's Office will be a new negative blow to the image and reputation of Georgia.

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