Pretrial detention for those arrested in Kavkasia punch-up
By Ernest Petrosyan
Tuesday, May 11Tbilisi City Court judge Giorgi Arevadze has sentenced seven people involved in the Kavkasia TV fistfight to two months pretrial detention. The seven are charged with committing prearranged hooliganism as a group (in violation of Article 239 of the Criminal Code of Georgia) and obstructing journalists (in violation of Article 154).
The judge denied the defence's request to release the detainees on bail. Interpressnews reported that Amiran Burduli, lawyer of the arrested Union of Orthodox Parents (OPU) member Levan Chachua, has stated that clergymen were prepared to act as guarantors for the detainees. However, the judge granted the request of the Prosecutor’s Office for two-mouth pretrial detention.
Nino Jangirashvili, anchor of the talk show which was interrupted by the fistfight between people debating the content of a controversial book, said in an interview with Georgian daily newspaper Rezonansi on May 10 that Levan Chachua had not taken part in the fistfight. “I want justice, not revenge,” she said, and added that although the perpetrators should be punished, “the charges against them should be well-grounded.” Kavkasia TV staff were injured during the fight.
Clergymen, OPU members and relatives of the detained objected to the judge's decision, saying that there is no evidence against the detainees. Amiran Burduli said that the testimonies of Kavkasia TV employees are the only evidence which has been presented against the detainees, and these do not meet the relevant standards of evidence.
Eight persons, Levan Chachua, Avto Zumbaidze, Levan Turashvili, David Shalamberidze, Giorgi Gabedava, Rati Maisuradze, Shota Apkhaidze and Zviad Bliadze were arrested in connection with the incident but Turashvili was released on May 9. OPU members told Interpressnews that they can prove that Kavkasia TV employees started the trouble by attacking their members and they will sue Kavkasia TV.
Several clergymen who attended the debate which sparked the fistfight have close links with the radical Orthodox Christian Movement, whose own members have also been involved in various other controversial incidents, including the demonstration outside Ilia Chavchavadze State University last week which also ended in violence. Archpriest David Isakadze, considered the spiritual leader of the hardline Orthodox group, was decorated with a pectoral cross and the right to wear a mitre for "service to our nation and Church.” at the Sunday service in Svetistskhoveli Cathedral on Sunday. Archpriest Davit was among the clergymen who entered the Kavkasia TV studio when the show was on air on the previous Friday night shortly after the fistfight had erupted outside.
The Georgian Patriarchate remains neutral. On May 8 the Holy Synod appealed to all political parties to avoid misusing the Patriarch's and Church's authority for their own political purposes, as the Church is the one of the most important forces for uniting the nation. However, the Patriarchate did not condemn the violence against media representatives.