Police Detained Activists in Front of the Parliament Building
Police have cracked down on peaceful protesters in front of the Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue, detaining several, including the representatives of prominent civil society organizations.
A small group has gathered in solidarity with Beka Grigoriadis, who was detained on the same spot yesterday as he was trying to erect a tent, to protest against the detention of his son, Lazare Grigoriadis.
Video footage from the eyewitnesses shows the police approaching a group holding paper banners, snatching the banners from their hands, and detaining some of the activists. According to the eyewitnesses, several people were injured in a rampage and required medical attention.
Transparency International – Georgia and the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy/ISFED have issued a statement saying that “arresting people for displaying banners is a gross interference with the freedom of expression and is against the Constitution.” The organizations call on the Ministry of Interior to immediately release all detainees and cease illegal restrictions on freedom of expression. They express concern over the trend of arbitrary and illegal arrests of peaceful protesters by the Ministry of Interior, also recalling the arrest of Beka Grigoriadis on June 1.
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association/GYLA also released a joint statement co-signed by over 20 CSOs which reads: “We, the civil society organizations, strongly support the human rights defenders detained in the Georgian Parliament who are bravely fighting against content restrictions on freedom of expression. Overnight, the police arrested 7 participants in a peaceful gathering near the Parliament in a completely arbitrary, illegal, and highly aggressive manner.”
“Through the arbitrary practice of administrative detention, the system is attempting to subject the participants and organizers of peaceful assemblies to police control, to weaken civic self-organization, intimidate the public and harass activists,”- reads the statement.
On June 4, after 48 hours of the maximum time for pre-trial detention, human rights defenders and activists arrested for hanging protest banners at the June 2 rally were released from pre-trial detention facilities.
Saba Brachveli, Eduard Marikashvili and Nika Romanadze gradually left the isolation cells. Before that, the activist Lasha Janjghava and the member of “Girchi-Meti Freedom” Levan Nishnianidze were released. Lawyer Shota Tutberidze was among those arrested on June 2, he was released shortly after his arrest based on his signature.
Chechen Businessman Cortege Spotted in Georgia
Social media has been abuzz with reports on sightings of a convoy of uniform black G-class Mercedes (Gelendvagen) cars with Russian registration plates in the capital Tbilisi, the seaside town of Batumi, and some other locations in Georgia. At least one vehicle bearing the same registration plates has been spotted in a video uploaded to the Instagram page of a Chechen businessman, Aslanbek Akhmetkhanov.
The speculation is rife, that Akhmetkhanov is closely tied to the Chechen warlord and leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.
Akhmetkhanov, who is known to have owned an oil company and a construction business, was publicly humiliated by Kadyrov in 2020 when he organized a birthday party in violation of quarantine measures and snubbed his nose at the Chechen leader. Akhmetkhanov issued a public apology and disappeared shortly after, with his family fearing the worst. Yet, Akhmetkhanov later reappeared in a video celebrating Ramadan with his family and is thought to be operating under Kadyrov’s protection since.
On June 5, it was reported that Aslanbek Akhmetkhanov’s guise had been in Georgia since May 22. The Ministry of Internal Affairs issued dozens of video fines to their cars with numbers – A777AC77, C777CE77, A777AK77. Fine subscriptions have been started since May 22nd and the last ones are dated June 3rd. Fines have been issued in different cities of the country, including Tbilisi, Grigoleti, Lanchkhuti, Kutaisi, Khashuri and so on.
Kremlin Critic Barred From Entering Georgia
Russian writer Viktor Shenderovich, an outspoken Kremlin critic, has not been allowed to enter Georgia.
“The holiday was postponed by the anonymous group of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia. They protected Georgia from me. By all means,” he noted, adding, “Under Ivanishvili’s conditions, I can’t risk calling Georgia Putin’s province, but work is being done in that direction, isn’t it?”
Shenderovich also emphasized that in 2006, during the “shameful” anti-Georgian campaign, she appeared with hundreds of other citizens at a protest rally in Moscow’s Pushkin Square with a badge that read “I am Georgian.” “As it is clear from my deportation from Tbilisi, I am not Georgian enough.”
On June 2 his performance “One Shenderovich Theatre” was to take place in Tbilisi, and on June 4 he was to take part in the event “Messages and Dialogues” in Batumi.
President Zurabishvili: We need to ensure that we do not miss a second chance
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili addressed the European Parliament today as part of her visit to Brussels. Her speech focused on Georgia’s EU integration, Georgia’s European identity and EU candidate status, the war with Ukraine and relations with Russia.
She started by noting that Georgians are at a historic juncture of their history as they long to “rejoin its European family” after centuries-long strive and said she will do all in her power to make this happen not only because this is prescribed by the Constitution but out of a “moral conviction.”
She said: “I want to see Georgia get past domestic and international challenges and firmly embark on the path to full-fledged European integration. And for that, there is only one road: to secure Georgia and be granted by the end of the year the status of candidate to the European Union.”
She spoke extensively about Georgia’s past, its affinity with Europe and the struggle for freedom, saying: “My plea for Georgia’s European future starts with Georgia’s European past, based on shared history, cultural roots, and most importantly shared values.”
She also stressed: “Georgia shared its tragic history for two and a half centuries through Tsarist imperialism and Russification, Soviet totalitarianism and repressions, and again Russian aggressions and occupations with one country, Ukraine.” The President then reiterated “the complete, unequivocal, and principled solidarity of the people of Georgia with the people of Ukraine.” She said: “We know too well that Ukraine is not only defending its territory but is shedding blood for us all: for Europe, its security and freedom; for Georgia, its security and European future”. She also paid tribute to President Zelensky who is leading his nation through these difficult times.
She then recalled the values of tolerance, rule of law, gender equality and human rights as rooted in Georgia’s literature and traditions, citing harbouring 80,00 Russians in the last year and a half as the most recent example, also noting that “it should be accompanied by clear and strict state regulations so that tolerance does not give way to frustrations and escalation.”
Salome Zurabishvili stressed that the list of Georgian core values echoes the 12 EU recommendations put forward to achieve the candidate status, “therefore, what you are asking from us,” she noted “is that Georgia remains true to its identity. What you are recommending is that Georgia eliminates the remnants of the totalitarian past and reunites with itself and its European roots.”
She then spoke about the sacrifices that Georgia has made and the heavy price it paid on the path to European integration, both in the distant and recent past, acknowledging the contribution of all recent governments into the EU and NATO integration.
She spoke at length about EU’s role as a provider of stability and the EU support to Georgia throughout the ears, including through aid and access to European markets, stressing: “…when I hear that we should thank Russia for now helping some development of our economy, I think it is not only immoral but also, and simply flat wrong.”
Zurabishvili stressed that Georgia should be granted the EU candidate status which will mean “recognition of the relentless fight of the Georgian people for their European identity” and of the Georgian people’s democratic credentials, while also stressing: “…we have made extraordinary progress through substantial reforms.” She stressed that the “candidate status would also provide protection and security for Georgia” and “protection from Russia.”
She then spoke in detail about Russia’s destructive actions in Georgia and in Ukraine, saying “as Russia is facing defeat in Ukraine, we cannot ill-afford to provide Russia with a temptation to look for weaker spots anywhere else.”
She stressed: “Russia needs to understand that Georgia is Europe and that Europe is determined for Georgia to be Europe” noting that in the past months Russia has been trying to trying to score points in Georgia, to subtly reestablish its influence while weakening that of Europe’s” citing “renewed flights, lifting visas, unrestricted population inflows, increased trade and ambivalent statements, all designed to create domestic tension, confusion, escalation.” Zurabishvili stressed that the candidate status will be a clear statement of EU determination which will help the Georgian people to push back against this brute force.