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Two opposition activists beaten up

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, August 4
Two activists of the opposition party Democratic Movement-United Georgia were beaten up brutally late on Sunday, members of the party led by former Parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze have reported. According to party spokesman Vakhtang Kolbaia, Amiran Bitsadze, a party activist and close relative of Nino Burjanadze’s husband, and Davit Bendeliani, a friend of Amiran Bitsadze, were stopped while driving in the suburbs of Tbilisi and forced to get out of their car. Kolbaia said Bendelieni was beaten up and Bitsadze was kidnapped. Later Bitsadze was found on the Didi Dighomi highway on the outskirts of Tbilisi and taken to hospital with multiple wounds, allegedly by caused plastic bullets, and brain injuries.

Members of Democratic Movement-United Georgia have said that the incident is linked to the opposition activities of Bitsadze and Bendeliani. “This is a persecution for political views. The opposition is planning to reactivate its protests in Autumn and the Government is afraid that honest people such as these will be among the demonstrators,” Vakhtang Kolbaia said.

The Georgian Interior Ministry has released a special statement saying that nobody has applied to the Ministry concerning this case but an investigation of it is already underway. However Parliamentary opposition representatives have demanded an “immediate investigation” of the incident and the punishment of those guilty. The leader of the Christian Democratic Party Giorgi Targamadze called it “concerning”, adding that if the case is not investigated the assault will be seen as political. “If the perpetrators are not punished, this will be regarded as political oppression,” he said.

The Movement for Fair Georgia, led by former Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, has condemned the beating up of the opposition activists. “It is obvious that the reason for beating up Bendeliani and kidnapping Bitsadze was their opposition activities,” its statement reads. The party calls on the Government to stop persecuting its opponents and end the use of violence in the country.

Last week the Democratic Movement-United Georgia reported that there had been “premeditated persecution” of its supporters. According to Secretary of the Party Roman Kusiani, on August 1 party activist Archil Rekhviashvili was forced to leave his house, kidnapped and physically assaulted by four people dressed in military uniforms. Kusiani said Rekhviashvili was released after it was reported that he had undergone heart surgery. Kusiani told journalists that about two weeks ago activist David Janibegashvili was also attacked, allegedly by people calling themselves policemen. Kusiani also said two other members of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, whose names he refrained from identifying, had also been detained.

Opposition-oriented analysts say that by oppressing opposition activists the Government is “burning all bridges”. Political commentator Gia Khukhashvili has said the ruling administration has two ways – the first is to give the people a chance to calm down by making some compromises, the second is to try to break the protest. “Our administration has chosen the second way, however the mistake they are making is that the results they achieve will be short-term results,” Khukhashvili has told The Messenger, adding that the Government is trying to destroy the opposition parties by attacking their lesser known members rather than their leaders.

Khukhashvili has suggested that more protests will be caused if the Government maintains this policy of “pressurising the opposition”.

Government officials, who have started visiting the regions of Georgia as a part of the programme of “public dialogue” initiated by the President, have not made any comment on this case so far.