In recent months, criticism has persisted that Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s government is allowing politics, rather than evidence, to guide criminal prosecutions of old foes. A curious case against a 19-year-old computer programmer, Vasil Jamalashvili, helps illustrate how that criticism has taken root.
Jamalashvili, a former employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Department of Constitutional Security, is charged with devising malware that was allegedly used to spy on Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream coalition prior to Georgia’s 2012 parliamentary elections. He faces up to eight years in prison if convicted on charges of illegal surveillance and eavesdropping.
Last November, Jamalashvili admitted to having a role in developing malware for the ministry that, when activated, supposedly could turn on microphones and video cameras on targeted computers. It could also record keystrokes and access documents. Jamalashvili has additionally stated that he acted in the belief that the computers to be targeted would be in Russia.
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Molly Corso is a freelance journalist who also works as editor of Investor.ge, a monthly publication by the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.