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Opposition allege government ‘terrorism’ after string of assaults

By Shorena Labadze
Tuesday, June 3
A leading opposition politician accused the government yesterday of mounting a campaign of terror against opposition activists after multiple reports of targeted beatings and attacks.

“This is clear terrorism for which the government has to take responsibility. How can people be beaten at noon, and the officials can’t find out who did it?” asked Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Rights and a top figure in the eight-party United Opposition bloc.

Gamkrelidze accused President Mikheil Saakashvili and Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili of complicity in the alleged campaign of assaults.

“They will not achieve anything through terror other than earning the title of ‘terrorist government,’” Gamkrelidze said.

He was speaking shortly after the beating of one of his party’s supporters, Giorgi Tavdgiridze.

Tavdgiridze was allegedly ambushed in Tbilisi by unmasked men riding in four cars.

Two cars blocked off Tavdgiridze’s car, and another crashed into him from behind, according to Gamkrelidze. Three men then beat him severely, leaving him with a cut on his leg and serious wounds to his face.

“The beating of Giorgi Tavdgiridze is one circle of a whole chain trying to cow opposition power and neutralize people who can stand at the rally and organize it,” Gamkrelidze told the news agency Interpressnews, in an apparent reference to a protest planned this month to stop the new parliament from convening.

Tavdgiridze was once the head of a military academy. “[He] isn’t an ordinary citizen,” said Gamkrelidze. “He has serious authority…both in military and civil society.”

Opposition representatives claim at least four other recent attacks against their supporters, including a brutal beating that left one man in an intensive care unit after he was found in a forest the next day.

Government members said any allegations of violence should be followed up.

“The appropriate bodies must look into the issue and respond adequately. I condemn any violation, no matter whether it’s moral or physical,” said Kvemo Kartli governor Davit Kirkitadze.

Gamkrelidze warned of tit-for-tat escalation.

“Terror may be responded to with terror, and in this case the situation could leave the control of opposition leaders and people will respond to this violent and terrorist government themselves,” Gamkrelidze stated.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the cases would be investigated.