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“I Felt My Eye Burst” Said Victim of May 26 Dispersal


Mariam Khurtsidze

Besik Tabatadze, participant of the protest demonstrations organized by the Public Assembly, recalled the night of May 26 in the Rustaveli Avenue in his interview with the Human Rights Center. During the dispersal he lost eye; the state did not award him with any compensation; though he did not request anything either.

Besik Tabatadze: “Our duty was to protect demonstrators; particularly women and children. We tried to build up a live shield for people in order to be targets of the first attack and allow people to run away. It might sound ridiculous to you now, but nobody could imagine that demonstrators would not be allowed to run away from the area. When they decided to disperse the demonstration, they should have given a way to people to leave the area but they put a siege round the people. Ordinary passers-by who did not participate in the protest rally at all were also trapped within this circle. They dispersed us by gas, water-cannon, rubber bullets and truncheons. When they threw gas capsules at the stage, the demonstration stopped. Before that they suggested people to surrender. We assisted the people to get off the stage; we tried to free the road and take the people out of the area.

We were standing near the memorial. Riot police officers were moving forward. There was no way out. At that moment I heard them saying – “Look, he is not running” and they shot me. I felt my eye burst. I heard the bullet sound. I immediately lost sight. I put my hand on the eye to check whether the eye was in its place but it was blooding. The gas-capsule fell near my feet. When I inhaled the gas, I lost sight in my second eye too. Strangers took me out of the area. We stopped near the museum. Suddenly, a fire engine arrived and threw water at us. Then we turned up near the Tsekavshiri building. We wanted to run towards Pushkini square but the hangmen were hiding behind the fence, they ironed us and pushed us down to the ground. Then we were taken to a police station where I spent that night. I remained there till 7:00 am; nobody took me to hospital.

-Later, you were placed in the hospital with serious injuries and were operated on the eye. Did the state fund your operation?

-I was taken to hospital at 7:00 am. Before that I was in Tbilisi Police Main Department; I paid 700 GEL for the operation; the state did not pay anything; I covered all operation expenses.

-Did not you appeal to the court?

-A criminal case was launched on my case at the prosecutor’s office based on the petition of the Public Defender. I was interrogated. I have lawyers who work on my case but there is no news yet. The investigation was prolonged because they did not allow me to get expertise conclusion for a long time. I paid expertise fee as well. Initially I petitioned to the Public Defender about expertise. Consequently, in order to allow the experts to detect the injuries on my body, I decided to take the expertise. I received the conclusion after a long time. According to the document, the conclusion was issued on June 25 but I received it in the mid September and the conclusion was not acceptable for me. I took photos of all my injuries but they are not attached to the conclusion.

The expertise conclusion reads that I have eight injuries. I claim that those injuries were caused by rubber bullets. The expertise conclusion states that it cannot be categorically alleged that the injury was caused by rubber bullet. They could not identify the distance of the bullet shot either. After all that, please explain, is it an expertise?

Eka Beselia’s office took up my case. I have stated many times that I will not stop and continue protection of my rights. I have to appeal to several courts in Georgia. If their judgments are not acceptable for me, I will apply to the Strasbourg Court.

-Were you or your family members intimidated after the incident?

-Neither I nor my family members were intimidated since then. Sometimes, I detect that I am watched. It happened several times.

-In one of your interviews you said: “I have lost eyesight but I hope you will look out better.” Do you think people have disabused? 

-There are different people. I hope at least small part of people has changed opinion about this issue. If my accident had positive impact on general situation, I will be happy. Nobody should think that we were happy to be in Rustaveli Avenue on May 26. Simply, we had no other choice. We never plotted an overthrow of the government. We requested fair elections in the country.

-Will you join next demonstration if it is necessary?

-If it is necessary I will join the next demonstration together with my family; I will always stand with my people. To tell the truth, I will be sorry if Georgian people will again need to start protest. Current authority takes advantage of street demonstrations. They want political process to move to the street and to satisfy their desire of bloodshed. They are vampires!

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