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Residents of Georgia’s Muslim-Populated Pankisi Launch Protest Rallies

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, June 20
(PANKISI, Georgia)--Locals of Georgia’s Muslim-populated Pankisi Gorge, in the country’s east, have launched protest rallies.

They are demanding recognition of 19-year-old killed terrorism suspect Temirlan Machalikashvili as innocent.

The protesters say that six months have passed since the incident and that the organisers and participants of the counter-terrorism operation conducted in December 2017 still have not been punished.

Family of the late Machalikashvili and the gorge population say that those who had planned the raid and “mistakenly shot” the young man must be held accountable, otherwise they say rallies will continue in capital Tbilisi.

“ Pankisi population demands recognition of Temirlan’s innocence. The government should admit that they made a mistake, - Malkhaz Machalikashvili, father of Temirlan Machalikashvili stated.

“The authorities are trying to discredit me and cover up this case, but people are not fool. The government should say that they made a mistake and punish those who did it, namely head of the State Security Service of Georgia Vakhtang Gomelauri, his deputy Ioseb Gogashvili and the officer of the special forces who shot my son," said Malkhaz Machalikashvili.

Temirlan Machalikashvili died on January 10, 2018 from the severe head injury he received during the December raid.

The Pankisi raid came after the large-scale anti-terrorist operation in Tbilisi on November 21-22, which saw Islamic State terrorist Akhmed Chatayev and his two accomplices killed and one detained.

Georgia’s State Security Service claims Chatayev and his group planned attacks on diplomats in Turkey and Georgia.

The December raid in Pankisi aimed at detaining the people who supported Chatayev to come to Georgia, buy weapons and find an accommodation, security officials stated.

During the Pankisi raid Machalikashvili was wounded and four others were detained for alleged support for terrorism, envisaging 17-20 years in prison or life imprisonment.

The Machalikashvili family is sure Temirlan was killed mistakenly and intends to appeal the European Court of Human Rights.