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Possible consequences of the ‘attack’ on the Patriarch

By Messenger Staff
Monday, October 26
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, in the statement spread by his Administration, has officially distanced himself from the attack on Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II which was launched on the internet by Tea Tutberidze, representatives of the Liberty Institute in Georgia.

The Georgian population has taken these indecent internet clips as personal insult. For Georgians Ilia II is the only ‘untouchable’ personality in the country, their spiritual leader, a person whom they trust, respect and love above all others and whose words they obey almost unanimously. The Georgian population has a feeling that since the attack on the Patriarch was made by a well known member of the Liberty Institute, an ideological bastion of the present administration before and during the Rose Revolution, and since Tea Tutberidze is a prominent activist of a radical group within that Institute called Kmara (Enough), the cyber attack was masterminded by senior officials. Therefore the President’s denial that he knew about or supported Tutberidze’s actions and his condemnation of them might not extinguish the anger and discontent of ordinary Georgian people.

Different sectors of the Georgian population have expressed their condemnation of the cyber attack and demanded the punishment of those behind it. It is known that prior to it, on October 7, the Patriarch almost openly criticised the Georgian leadership for getting trapped in the August 2008 war against Russia. He said, in fact, that the war could have been avoided with wise leadership. His comments were broadcast by the Maestro TV channel while neither of the State-controlled TV companies transmitted the words of His Holiness.

Tutberidze’s clip was created in a professional way, using computer graphics and animation technology. Though the attack is connected with her alone there is a suspicion that it was masterminded by animation professionals. The opposition have of course used this to provoke further anti-administration sentiments. Tutberidze has expressed no regrets for her conduct and moreover stated that the Patriarch is connected to the Russians. This has further outraged the population. Probably this cyber attack was designed to test the level of public interest in protecting the Patriarch. If the response had been milder the attack could have gone further.

The first reaction of the population was shock. After a couple of days protests in different forms began to appear and they continue. Articles are being written, public meetings are taking place, telephone calls are being made to Tutberidze, who has by the way complained to the police about the threats made over the phone and said that she is afraid to go home at night and is hiding in other places. Her behaviour, which was presumably intended to humiliate the Patriarch, has backfired and might create the level of protest action the opposition has promised but not been able to fulfil.

The Patriarchate’s statement on this matter said that an anti-Patriarch and anti-Church campaign is being conducted, designed to create dissatisfaction with the Georgian Church and destroy the foundations of the Georgia’s statehood and its fundamental values and built Georgia’s future on a basis Georgian traditions find unacceptable.

Tutberidze says she was simply exercising freedom of speech. Some people are trying to defend her, however the numbers of those demanding stricter condemnation by the Patriarchate and the punishment of Tutberidze are increasing. Some are even doubting the genuineness of the President’s expressions of regret. So the scandal created by what was probably an individual initiative by Tutberidze conducted as a test shows all the signs of developing a much greater political resonance.