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Opposition Reacts to Veterans' Protests

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, January 6
On January 5th, the leader of the oppositional party Free Georgia, Kakha Kukava appealed to the international community for special sanctions to be placed on the people who participated in breaking up the veterans’ manifestation on January 3rd.

Georgian Police broke up a hunger strike and arrested over a dozen Georgian veterans who participated in armed conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the early 90s as well as veterans of the August 2008 war. The strike took place at the memorial of fallen soldiers for Georgia’s territorial integrity in Tbilisi on January 3rd. The group of veterans protested to emphasize their social hardship and the neglectful attitude of the authorities. The veterans complained that they have been left without a source of income after being discharged from the army or dismissed from other governmental structures. Several veterans have been arrested. Later, the detained veterans were released after paying a fine of 400 GEL each.

“I appeal to the international community to set sanctions on the people who participated in breaking up the manifestation.," Kukava stated and at the same time appealed to all oppositional parties acting in Georgia with a special initiative, “We should make a list of people who are breaking the law at the present moment and are not being punished by the current authorities, so that they may be punished adequately after the conclusion of the present regime.”

The Ambassador of the United Stated to Georgia, John Bass expressed his worry concerning the breaking up of the manifestation and stated that such a thing should not take place in a democratic country, "I am alarmed that the police used force against the protesters. Such a thing should not take place in a democratic country. I hope that an investigation will be launched and that video materials will be used during the process."

Fighting against veterans means fighting against the country’s territorial integrity, head of the Representative Public Assembly, Nona Gaprindashvili stated on January 5th, at a special briefing. “The authorities must not be forgiven after such actions, how long are we going to bear this situation?" she asked.

According to the Georgian authorities, the manifestation lacked moral and ethical standards, “Each Georgian citizen has a right to protest, however when you hold manifestation on Heroes’ Square, you should not make such a place a nest of filth. Such action lacks moral and ethical standards and it is time standards are set in this direction for our country," MP, Nugzar Tsiklauri stated and mentioned that the manifestation “carried a political connotation, which strained the situation there.” However, he did not comment whether the policemen were acting legally, since “it is a matter for the court and investigators.”

In regards to how legally the policemen were acting, the opposition definitely has a very negative attitude, since a woman representative from the oppositional Georgian Party was physically assaulted by an MIA employee. As an Interior Ministry’s January 5th statement reads, this law enforcer, Otar Gvenetadze, was dismissed from his job due to, “the violation of police norms within the code of ethics.” However, Georgian Party is not satisfied by this decision, “It was violation of the law and not the ethic's code. This man must answer for this in court,” party member, Koka Guntsadze said.

As analyst Irakli Sesiashvili told The Messenger, “The authorities divide the Georgian citizens and events into two groups: those who were around before the Rose Revolution and after the revolution. Those who were acting for the country before the revolution turned out to be on the list of useless people. The authorities do not benefit from the veterans and do not want to give any kind of social assistance to them," Sesiashvili stated and mentioned that the absence of a political policy regarding the veterans is not the only problem, “It was also a rough violation of the constitution and human rights which took place against the veterans."