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Parliament debates Aziz mosque

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, March 14
Jondi Bagaturia, leader of the Georgian Troupe, has called on President Mikheil Saakashvili to participate in televised debates with him, after accusing the President's family of corruption.

At Parliament's plenary session on Tuesday, Bagaturia accused the Saakashvili family of having misused state property. Members from Saakashvili's United National Movement dismissed his comments as a “theatrical performance".

Bagaturia was referring to the government’s decision to rehabilitate the Aziz mosque in Batumi. Demanding the creation of an anti-corruption council, he called the mosque a “symbol of Turkish occupation".

Suspecting that the opposition MP was putting on “a one man show” to get financial support from billionaire Georgian Dream leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, Vice Speaker Mikheil Machavariani advised Bagaturia “to think about his job”.

“We are not surprised that you are so active,” government MP Goka Gabashvili said to Bagaturia. “But you should choose better topics instead of accusing the President’s family of corruption,” he said. Stressing that the reality is different from how Ivanishvili and his supporters see it, Gabashvili encouraged members of Parliament not to distort the truth.

MP Koba Khabazi welcomed the construction of the mosque if Georgian cultural monuments in Turkey are also rehabilitated. He said that if the government will not solve this issue, it would be a “crime against future generations".

The Christian Democratic Movement demanded the question of the Aziz mosque be put to a referendum. As MP Levan Vepkhvadze said, this is an important national issue that should not be solved without considering the feelings of the people.

Parliamentary Speaker Davit Bakradze has left for Israel, where he will meet with officials to discuss the issue of the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem. Vepkhvadze called this trip part of a UNM PR campaign. “Let you first act and then speak,” he advised the government.

It was several months ago when the Georgian and Turkish governments announced an agreement to restore two Georgian monasteries on Turkish territory and rebuild two mosques in Georgia. One of them is the Aziz mosque, which burnt down last century. However, the Georgian Orthodox Church considers the deal unacceptable because the mosques in Georgia will be under Muslim ownership, while Georgian sites in Turkey remain under Turkish control, with some Georgian consultation.