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Protesters against giant trees replanting are arrested

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Friday, February 12
Members of Guerrilla Gardeners and the United National Movement (UNM) were detained during a rally in Tsikhisdziri, a town on the Black Sea coast near Kobuleti. The same activists have previously resisted the cutting down of trees in a park in the capital, as well as tree-felling in Bakuriani.

The protesters were against the removal of three giant old trees which they suspect will be hauled by boat 40km up the coast to Ureki and placed in a garden belonging to businessman and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The replanting process was carried out by the Zimo company, which claimed that the trees would not be damaged during the replanting process, since the works are being carried out based on international experience.

The tree-moving was first reported a few weeks ago. The Government of Adjara issued a decree on December 31 that gave permission to Zimo Ltd to move two swamp cypress trees and one tree known as a Liriodendron tulipifera for the price of 6,200 laris. The working process was accompanied by about 40 patrol police officers.

The protesters stated that they will continue rallies against the replanting process and defend the interests of local people and ancient trees.

“We demand that the Ministry of Environmental Protection to stop the process. Those trees should not be moved from this place,” stressed the protesters.

Demonstrators detained in Tsikhisdziri still remain in detention. The Municipal Court will discuss the case, and those arrested are being charged with administrative violations. They will likely face a fine or 15 days of imprisonment.

The interests of arrested individuals will be defended in the court by the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA).

The lawyers claim that the arrests were groundless and are accusing the police of abusing their power.

A lawyer of the GYLA, Giorgi Khimshiashvili, said that there was no need to arrest the protesters and “they should not be held in the detention center for such a long period”.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of the Environmental Protection Temur Murghulia said that the replanted trees will be moved without harm.

“In total, three trees have to be replaced. This will not cause any kind of environmental problems. In addition, the trees will be moved without suffering any kind of damage; the company which is conducting their contracted work is amply qualified for this,” stated Murghulia.