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Ministry of Internal Affairs: 20 Arrested at Anti-Eviction Rally

By Liza Mchedlidze
Wednesday, January 24, 2024
While the National Bureau of Enforcement, along with the employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, forcibly evicted the Khatiashvili family from the apartment, an anti-eviction rally outside the building took place. According to the Internal Ministry statement, 20 people were arrested during the rally.

Supporters of the Khatiashvili family gathered at Kekelidze from 9 o'clock in the morning on January 23. They peacefully resisted the officers of the National Bureau of Enforcement and protested the eviction decision. Despite the opposition, the bureau carried out the enforcement action and forcibly removed the family from the apartment.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that during the eviction process, 18 people were arrested under administrative rules, while 2 were apprehended under criminal law charges related to group damage to other people's property. An investigation has been launched on charges of resisting a police officer, a special penitentiary service employee, or another government representative and obstructing the protection of public order.

According to Nona Kurdovanidze, the chairman of the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA), lawyers are not allowed to visit the individuals arrested at the anti-eviction rally. Kurdovanidze urged the Ministry of Internal Affairs to immediately provide lawyers with information about the whereabouts of the detainees and allow them to visit.

"Some of those arrested on Kekelidze Street were likely transferred to the police building on Kakheti highway. GYLA lawyers are on-site, attempting to meet with the detainees. They have the necessary warrants with them.

Although the lawyer has the right to meet with the client immediately and without hindrance, our lawyers are not allowed to do so. The authorities do not even confirm whether specific persons are present or not.

This is not the first time lawyers have faced barriers in meeting with detainees," Kurdovanidze wrote.

The Media Advocacy Coalition condemned the illegal interference in the activities of journalists and the arrest of a journalist during the coverage of the eviction. In response to these incidents, the organization issued a statement.

According to their assessment, the mentioned incidents worsen the media environment and constitute a clear violation of journalists' fundamental rights.

"On January 23, 2024, while covering the eviction process from a residential building on Kekelidze Street in Tbilisi, journalists from the online media outlet 'Mautskebeli' were physically assaulted by the police while performing their professional duties. In particular, 'Mautskebeli' journalist Rati Ratiani was thrown down from a car by a policeman using force while performing his professional duties. The journalist's life and health were threatened by this action.

While speaking about the ethics charter, the representative of 'Mautskebeli' noted that law enforcement officers physically assaulted three more journalists, including Natia Karchiladze, Ani Giorgadze, and Giorgi Arobelidze. Gela Mtivlishvili, the editor of 'Mountain Stories,' was arrested while performing his professional duties and subsequently transferred to the Vake regional police department," the statement reads.

The Media Advocacy Coalition called on the Special Investigation Service to urgently investigate cases of violence against journalists, illegal interference in their professional activities, and unlawful detention.