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Eyewitnesses dispute account of shooting

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, May 11
The incident on May 6 involving National Council Mayoral Candidate Zviad Dzidziguri and National Movement activists has aroused public debate and contradictory reports about it have appeared on TV and in print. The Messenger has tried to clarify the situation and obtain reliable information from eyewitnesses and others living near the scene, who have chosen to remain anonymous.

National Movement activists state that two men living in the same block as Dzidziguri (two story building in which four families live) had started tearing down the National Movement candidate’s posters, and when the activists protested they were physically abused by those two people and also Dzidziguri, who gathered his neighbours at the scene after a few minutes. "Our posters were pasted on the bus stop, and we explained to them that it was a public place and everyone has the right to stick posters there. In response they beat us, and Dzidziguri came and shot in our direction 4-5 times. If other people had not been there we would be dead now," said Temur Asatiani and Giorgi Todradze, commenting separately. Gigi Ugulava, the National Movement Mayoral candidate, said "such things should not take place in Georgian political life. I appeal to all political leaders and parties to conduct their campaigns peacefully, on the basis of the law.” This version of events is the one widely reported on Government-controlled TV stations.

However eyewitnesses give a totally different account. "It was nearly midnight, I was seeing off my guests, it was Saint George’s Day as you know. We were waiting for a taxi on the other side of the street to the bus stop. I saw one of my neighbours tearing down posters pasted on the wall of his house and on the back of the bus shelter. I do not know why someone put those posters on the back of the shelter, as they would have been invisible to bus passengers and only those living in the house behind would be able to see them. The man tore them down and then his son came, but two minutes later as they were about to go a black car suddenly appeared, I do not know where from, and several men came out and started beating the father and son, there were nearly 20 of them. People came out to see what was happening, Dzidziguri among them. He called on everyone to go home and tried to calm the situation, but the activists only became more aggressive towards him and his supporters and their number very swiftly increased to at least 50. Someone even managed to hit him,” said one.

Another eyewitness said that the National Movement activists had pistols with them. "The situation was very strained. Dzizdiguri shot three times in the air and I saw several of the activists move their hands back, revealing their pistols. Only after those shots were fired in the air did the situation calm down. I called the patrol police but they only came after everything was over and did not even come out of their cars. The two leaders of the group of activists went to talk to them through the car window and then they sat in the police car and went,” the eyewitness said.

The Messenger has tried to found out more about the activists interviewed by Georgian TV, the so-called “victims” of Dzidziguri. The above mentioned Todradze seems to be disliked by most people who know him, who say he is one of the main initiators of quarrels in his district. Dzidziguri himself told us about Asatiani during his account of the incident. "It is hard to believe that at midnight so many people could gather in one place so quickly when someone tore down a poster. I think most of them were really from the law enforcement structures, as they all had firearms with them. When I came out of the house aggression was directed towards me and they tried to abuse me, and I was left with no other way to neutralise the situation than shooting. When I shot in the air three times the situation calmed down, but not before.

"Some TV reports have said that I was drunk, which is absolutely false. On that day the opposition had held a demonstration, then we had a meeting, and everyone can check this. There was no time for me to celebrate the holiday.

"One of the activists was Temur Asatiani, who was once a Conservative Party member but after a week gathered all the TV companies and told them I was giving out oars and sticks for the members to beat people with. His father was Chair of one of the election districts, appointed by the National Movement, and his son voted three times there at the same election. During his last attempt to vote ourselves and the New Rights caught him at it,” Dzidziguri explained.

The candidate also explained his hostility towards journalists who tried to interview him that night. "It was nearly 3 o’clock when they knocked on my door. The main gate of the block was locked, so it seems they jumped over the fence. I did not open the door, as we were having difficulty calming down the children and did not want to make them nervous again (Dzidziguri has five small children). I was in my study and there is a small window on the balcony through which you can see into my study, through which those journalists were secretly filming me. You can see what they shot in Imedi TV’s reports. Anyone would be annoyed at this. I expect to be subjected to provocations, but not in my home, where my family lives,” Dzidziguri said.