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Saakashvili criticized for calling student "criminal"

By Lera Khubunaia
Friday, March 2
In his report to Parliament, President Mikheil Saakashvili expanded on a comment he made during a prior debate, in which he called a student expelled for fighting "a hooligan".

Mikheil Aleksidze was expelled from school No. 53 in October 2011 because of a violent incident with Taras Shavshishvili, the director of the school.

"School isn't the place for street fights," Shavshishvili said. "Aleksidze broke the school rules for which he got expelled by the disciplinary committee".

The incident became public, and prompted Saakashvili to discuss it during a debate in Parliament. He called Aleksidze a "hooligan and criminal", which he later denied.

"I didn't call him a criminal, that's your [the opposition's] term. But I want to say that nobody wants their child to sit next to a student who is ready to break all the rules fight, scare, and then argue with others in the yard. Would you let your child be with such children? No you wouldn't. That is why there are rules to obey; we took away the street mentality from prisons, in the wider society, and we are doing same in schools," Saakashvili asserted.

Lali Lekishvili, Aleksidze's mother, says that the information provided by Shavshishvili is inaccurate. She believes that Saakashvili was misinformed about the incident and her son's behavior.

"I raised a real Christian man who was defending his friend, and I hope President Saakashvili will meet with me and hear the truth," Lekishvili said.

Giorgi Targamadze, leader of the Christian Democrats, is demanding that Saakashvili re-instate the student.

Targamadze spoke about this issue and about the violation of the rights of children during a parliamentary briefing, which Aleksidze's mother attended. He added that despite the fact that Saakashvili violated the Georgian Constitution and also the presumption of innocence with his statement, the goal of the meeting was not to make political accusations.

"Whether or not I am the defender of criminals, it does not matter for now. But when the President addresses a 15-year-old boy with certain epithets, he should consider that not only is there no court decision, but also no charges against Aleksidze," Targamadze asserted. "It is [one thing] to argue with a harsh tone in political debates, but it's different when a 15-year-old boy's future is on the line".

After Aleksidze was expelled from school No. 53, he could no longer register with other schools. He was denied by schools no. 49, 183, 55, 51 and 24. Lekishvili has asked the court to annul the expulsion of her son.

In addition, Lekishvili stated that the school administration is putting undue pressure on her other son; according to her, he has been suspended from class for laughter, and for asking to use the restroom.

Shavshishvili denies this information; if there was anything like this happening to the child, his parents could always transfer the boy to another school, he maintained.

The decision to expel Aleksidze was made by the school's disciplinary committee, which was signed and accepted by Shavhsishvili, according to Lika Tsiklauri, the student's lawyer.

"We are appealing Aleksidze's exclusion from school and the fact that none of the schools have given him the right to get the education," she said. "Georgian law and the Constitution do not include a student's exclusion from the entire education system."

Hopefully justice will be achieved in Georgia and there will be no need to address the European Court, Tsiklauri added.

Aleksidze's trial has been postponed until March 12. His attorney says that the preparatory phase is expected to be completed by that date, after which the court will begin to discuss the case.