Incidents of violence, harassment continue
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, July 27
The number of incidents is increasing where citizens are not allowed to express their opinion and have become victims of violence. The last such incident occurred in the Zugdidi municipality in the village of Tsaishi. The president states that he has met with the victims and according to him, the law breakers have been punished. However, NGOs claim that the punitive actions imposed on police employees and officials involved in such cases are far from adequate.
Resident of Tsaishi Roza Tskabelia, wanted to talk to the president about her serious personal problems (she looks after four physically challenged family members). Prior to the meeting with the president, she was approached by unknown individuals who did not allow her to finish the interview with the journalists and forcefully dragged her from the scene. The video material of the incident is available on Youtube and was initially broadcasted by smsportal.ge.
According to Tskabelia’s later interview with Info 9, four men, two of which she new personally, dragged her away and forced her into a basement of one of the residential building. In the basement she was approached by the head of the Zugdidi Municipality, Aleksandre Kobalia. After Tskabelia threatened to commit a suicide, he told her abductors to release her. According Tskabelia, she was also approached by local police Chief Kiria, who as Tskebelia alleges, tricked her into going out, tied her hands and feet and took her home. The victim also reported that the district trustee verbally attacked her and offered her money. Ms. Tskabelia refused to take the money.
On June 16, 2012, Tsinara Abuladze, 75 was beaten by sticks by police officers prior to her meeting with the president. This was confirmed in writing by her neighbors. On September 26, 2011, in the village of Melaani, Gurjaani District, Lamzira Korchishvili, 53 who had arrived at the meeting with the president to hand him a letter, was allegedly abducted by men dressed in civilian uniforms from the neighboring territory. In her interview with the Kakheti Information Centre, Korchishvili underscores that the car number she had been kidnapped with is known and she is also able to recognize those who had beaten her. However, the crime has still not been investigated. Moreover, she was dismissed from the school and is left without a job.
The President of Georgia personally met with Tskabelia. Based on him, as soon as he heard about the incident he decided to meet her, “I have always been and will be the protector of those who are in poverty; all those ones who would try to disturb people, come to me and tell me about your problems and they will be strictly punished. I am very angry about this,” the president stated, explaining that those people who violated Tskabelia’s rights have been punished.
Saakashvili also told Tskabelia that she would receive a 1,000 GEL voucher in the following year and increased insurance. “So you will not have problems concerning the purchase of medicines and we will look after your family. Me and my government are the biggest defenders to all troubled citizens. We will not leave you in misery,” the president mentioned.
The reaction of the Interior Ministry was swift. However, the ministry speaks of only administrative violations. Based on the statement released by the Interior Ministry, two individuals were detained in relation to the Tsaishi incident. They were sentenced to 15 days of administrative imprisonment. Under the Interior Ministry’s decision, the head of the district unit of Zugdidi Regional Main Division who witnessed the incident was dismissed from work.
The Georgian Young Lawyers Association claims that the measures carried out by the ministry however are inadequate, accusing the government of having a special relationship with the local authorities. “The violence was witnessed by cameras and the media has released a video showing the incident. Based on Tskabelia’s report, several criminal actions are evident, perpetrated with the involvement of civil servants,” GYLA reports and names those articles of the Criminal Code which should have been used while investigating the fact: Article 153 (curtailing freedom of speech), Article 143 (illegal deprivation of liberty) Article 125 (beating), Article 342 (neglect of official duty), Article 372 (influencing a witness, a victim, an expert or an interpreter).
According to the victim’s report, the said individuals were directly involved in the criminal actions, giving orders to the rest of the individuals and acting in coordination, it was stated.
Thus, GYLA believe that measures undertaken by the MIA in response to the incident are insufficient, as grounds for launching a probe are evident. The organization recommends that the investigation concerning the issue should be conducted by an independent structural unit of the office of the prosecutor without conflict of interests in relation to the case. They also recommend that the investigation should not be carried out by Samegrelo- Zemo Svaneti Prosecutor’s office as the office is chaired by Roland Akhalaia, father of Interior Minister, Bacho Akhalaia. This presents a serious conflict of interest.