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Council of Europe Secretary General joins calls for dialogue

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, April 29
While the radical opposition continues to hold rallies against Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, some international figures are calling on both sides to hold dialogue as the only means of regulating the situation. Secretary General of the Council of Europe Terry Davis commented on the ongoing protests in Georgia on April 28, saying that the conflict should be resolved through negotiations between the Georgian Government and opposition. “I think it is better to settle and discuss these problems in Parliament, not in the street,” the Georgian media quoted Davis as saying. “I have been consistent in saying that the people who criticize President Saakashvili should do so in the Parliament. I understand that some opposition party candidates who won seats in Parliament at the elections refused to take their seats. It is difficult to understand how this can help the opposition.”

The Georgian opposition has called Terry Davis’s statement “not serious”. “Terry Davis, Baroness Smith and Bruce Jackson brought Saakashvili to power in Georgia, they are the allies of Saakashvili” leader of the Georgian Labour Party Shalva Natelashvili said on Tuesday. He added that “representatives of the Labour Party do not consider him as an authority.”

Meanwhile the opposition continue to claim that their supporters and activists are being assaulted by law enforcers and other state agencies. Way of Georgia leader Salome Zourabichvili said the opposition is planning to inform international organizations and Embassies accredited in Tbilisi of various assaults on participants of the demonstrations.

On April 28 the “radical” opposition reported that a car belonging to a member of the Alliance for Georgia was damaged in the town of Poti late on April 27. Another incident occurred at Rustaveli Metro station the same night, when, the opposition alleges, about 20 men attacked opposition activists Irakly Kobakhidze and Zaza Elchibegov and beat them “brutally”. According to Kobakhidze and Elchibegov, the assailants were not dressed in police uniforms. “They were dressed as ordinary citizens and attacked us without warning,” the opposition activists said.

One of the leaders of the Alliance for Georgia, David Gamkrelidze, has commented on this case and said “it is a great pity that the Government is using violence against demonstrators on the Day of Repentance.” People’s Party leader Koba Davitashvili also expressed his protest against the assault and criticized the Government for not behaving appropriately on the day of repentance announced by Georgian Patriarch Ilia II.

The Georgian media has reported that journalists of the TV companies Rustavi 2 and Imedi have also been assaulted. Rustavi 2 says that its cameraman Levan Kalandia was beaten by drunken opposition activists late on April 27. Imedi TV has also said that its journalists were prevented by opposition activists from working at the site of the demonstration.

A Georgian Public Broadcaster crew was prevented from presenting live coverage of the rally on Monday night. Reporter Lika Khurtsidze said the demonstrators accused GBP of being biased in favour of the Government.