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PM Kvirikashvili: We Saw Police which Protected People and not a Political Force

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, May 16
(TBILISI)--The Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated on Tuesday that during the large-scale rallies on Rustaveli Avenue on May 12-13, the public saw police which protected the people and not any political force.

The PM stated that such an attitude of policy would be unlikely under the previous state leadership.

Kvirikashvili said that the majority of the protesters also enabled the police to carry out their duties.

The PM stated that there is no wall between the current Georgian leadership and the people and that his government never refrains from communication with the country’s youth.

“When it comes to the drug policy, we have promised that a relevant draft will be presented in the parliament soon, which will make the current law more liberal to drug users, while tougher measures will be taken against drug dealers,” Kvirikashvili said.

Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, presumes that the new bill on drug policy will be adopted until the end of June.

He says that there is a difference of opinions about drug policy in the ruling team, but there is a resource for achieving an agreement.

"We are intensively working on the draft law. We want to draft a bill and submit it in the next two weeks, which will be a precondition for adopting a law by the end of June. We have a clear vision of general principles. The main task is to reduce drug use in Georgia and pursue humanitarian policy," Kobakhidze said.

Police raided two nightclubs - Bassiani and Cafe Gallery - in Central Tbilisi at 12:30 a.m. During and before the raid police detained 8 alleged drug dealers. One of the detainees was a club guard, as the ministry announced.

The detainees have been charged for possession and sale of drugs in especially large quantities, which is punishable by 8-20 years in prison. The detainees have already been sent to pre-trial detention.

The same day, on May 12, large-scale rallies kicked off in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi with the slogan "For Our Freedom,” protesting the raid in nightclubs, accusing the police of using excessive force and demanding a change of the state drug policy. They also demanded the resignation of the prime minister and interior minister.

Nationalists groups organized a counter-rally on Rustaveli Avenue on May 13, which made the situation tense.

Late on May 13 the Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili called on the police to increase measures for ensuring the safety of protesters at Rustaveli Avenue.

The same night Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia arrived at the rally and offered an apology if any law enforcer created a safety threat to any individual during and after the raid. However, he called on the protesters to also ask pardon from the police employees if they also acted inappropriately. The minister stated that the ministry will work with the protesters over the new drug policy and announced the meeting on the next day.

Protesters stated that they will renew rallies if the government fails to keep its promise and take no genuine steps for decriminalization of drug consumption.

The ruling party members, part of the opposition and experts stated that Gakharia took a right step and managed to de-escalate the situation, while another part says that the government will not change its attitude to drug policy.