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Expert says Gakharia ordered rally dispersal on June 20

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, July 11
Expert in political issues Mamuka Areshidze says that Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia made an order on rally dispersal on Rustaveli Avenue on June 20, during an anti-occupation demonstration, leaving 240 injured with two losing one of their eyes.

Areshidze said on Wednesday that Gakharia personally told experts about it on July 9, during a face-to-face meeting.

“He said that there were several cases when law enforcers abused their power. We have asked them when the investigation is over regarding the dispersal. However, he responded that the process might be lingered, which would be unpleasant as people are waiting for answers,” Areshidze said.

No one from the government, including Gakharia, has confirmed so far that the interior minister gave the order on dispersal.

Deputy Interior Minister Natia Mezvrishvili said last week that “when attacked police have the right to act without any order.”

Expert Amiran Salukvadze stated following the meeting that it was likely the previous incident in Georgia’s Muslim-populated Pankisi Gorge to have made an influence on the developments on Restiveli Avenue.

He said that in Pankisi, where law enforcers arrived to calm crowds opposing the construction of a Hydro Power Station back in April 2019, “small rubber bullets did not work.”

“Gakharia said that the rubber bullets used during the dispersal in Tbilisi [unlike those one used in Pankisi] were bought in 2012, under the United National Movement leadership, several months before the elections [in the parliamentary elections the Georgian Dream coalition defeated the nine-year-rule of the United National Movement],” Salukvadze said.

Head of Georgia’s Young Lawyers’ Association NGO Sulkhan Saladze says that they have questions and if the questions remain unanswered, any explanations by the government will do nothing.

“We ask on why the police did not warn protesters [at the site] about the launch of the dispersal [the ministry made a written warning only] to allow protesters, who wished that, leave the territory? Or why did not police try to take up the avenue instead of staying on their previous spots and shooting from there?” Saladze said.

In his previous statement, Gakharia said that videos will be provided, showing how demonstrators attacked police and “forced them” to use violence.

The government has placed the responsibility of the dispersal onto the opposition, “who managed to transform a peaceful and a fair protest into violence.”

People gathered on Rustaveli Avenue late on June 20 after Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov, from the country which occupies 20 percent of the Georgian territory, took the seat of the Georgian parliamentary speaker to address the audience during the 26th Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy.

Georgian top officials said that the event organisers “made the huge mistake,” while the opposition grilled the government for allowing this to happen, “insulting the Georgian people and their dignity.”

Rallies are still ongoing in Tbilisi with the demand of Gakharia’s resignation for the use of force during the rally.