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Gamsakhurdia trial arouses wave of protests

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, February 19
The trial of Tsotne Gamsakhurdia, son of the first President of Georgia, began on February 18 at Tbilisi City Court. Some Georgian opposition parties have responded by holding street rallies demanding his release.

Gamsakhurdia was arrested on October 28, charged with attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm. Police said that Gamsakhurdia had shot and wounded his neighbour. His lawyer Keti Bekauri said that her client denies the allegations. She maintained that an unknown person had hit Gamsakhurdia on the head close to his home on the night the crime was committed, and as a result he lost consciousness and does not know what happened afterwards.

Gamsakhurdia had been peviously arrested in September and charged with spying for Russia and conspiracy to overthrow the Government. He was released on GEL 20,000 bail, but these charges have not been dropped.

Before the trial the opposition held a protest march on Tsereteli Avenue. Conservatives Kakha Kukava and Bidzina Gujabidze, Aleksandre Shalamberidze from the People’s Party, members of the Movement for United Georgia and the Movement for Fair Georgia and supporters of Manana Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia participated in it. Kukava said that protests in support of political prisoners would be staged at 12:00 each Thursday. "Small local protest actions are very important in order to draw the attention of the international community and media to political prisoners. Next week's will be held outside the Prosecutor’s Office.”

The Labour Party has also sent an appeal to the Court in which party members stand surety for Gamsakhurdia. "We are sure that Gamsakhurdia will not hide from justice and we demand his immediate release from prison. If the Court does not take our application into consideration, we will hold continual street rallies,” Soso Shatberashvili, from the Labour Party, said.

As the trial started the Conservative Party demanded that the Minister of Probation, Penitentiary and Legal Assistance, Khatuna Kalmakhelidze, be prosecuted for several violations of the law in reference to this case. "First of all, Tsotne Gamsakhurdia is not present. Some document has been brought, signed by some person in the prison administration, saying that his health is poor and he cannot attend the trial, but Gamsakhurdia has not signed this as required. Secondly, some materials not known to Gamsakhurdia’s lawyer have been presented by the Prosecutor’s Office and Bekauri has only been given an hour in which to see them, which is another violation of the law,” Kukava said. The Minister has not yet commented on this.

The Prosecutor’s office has stated that due legal process is being followed. "Tsotne Gamsakhurdia has been detained and given two months preliminary detention based on the seriousness of the charges before him. These are attempted murder and illegal possession and keeping of a firearm,” it said.

Opposition claims that Gamsakhurdia has been charged for political reasons are entirely rejected by the Georgian Government. Its representatives have stated several times that there are no political prisoners in the country and Gamsakhurdia has been detained for committing a crime, for which he should be held responsible.