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Policemen Physically Assaulted the Observers

09.01.2008
In Kakheti, policemen physically assaulted observers from NGOs and political parties from the opposition. The incident occurred in the evening of January 8 in Gurjaani. Observers from the Human Rights Center and Fair Elections demanded the Precinct Election Commission (PEC) to declare the results of several Polling Stations (PS) invalid. In reply to their demand the police officers from the Gurjaani Department of the Internal Ministry beat them.

Observers from the NGOs stated that presidential elections were conducted under blatant violations in the Kakheti Region and the election was fraudulent.

“We filed official complaints at the polling stations wherever we could manage it. The district election commission (DEC) chairpersons and members, particularly those representing the National Movement, prevented us from filing complaints. Anyway, we could submit our appeals within the term prescribed by the law. Despite several requests, the PEC and DEC did not provide us with information when they intended to discuss our appeals. One of the observers suddenly appeared at the meeting and informed others that we had demanded Gurjaani precinct # 12 to declare the results of that particular district invalid. While discussing the appeals, the deputy chairperson of the commission, Bichiko Maisuradze, requested the same. Another commission member, Zurab Dakhelishvili, discussed all violations observed at their DEC in detail. As a result of the discussion, Nato Begashvili, the chairperson of the commission, got annoyed and did not let anyone finish speaking. She postponed the meeting for two hours,” said Lia Khuroshvili, a lawyer for the Human Rights Center.

The chairperson was locked into a separate room until the meeting resumed. Nearly twenty minutes later, Zurab Khevishvili, the chairperson of Gurjaani’s National Movement branch and representatives of the Gurjaani Municipality Board visited her. Ten minutes after the guests left the office, Bagashvili called commission members to her quarters one-by-one except for Zurab Danelishvili.

According to the Human Rights Center, the board of the ruling party had information about Danelishvili, who was critical of the events of January 5. Thus, public officials called him several times during the day; more precisely those people were MP Ioseb Kardenakhishvili, officials from the Region Prosecutor’s Office and police officers. They sent relatives to Danelishvili as mediators and demanded him to keep silent but in vain. It is noteworthy that they threatened him with planting drugs on his nineteen-year-old son.

Zurab Danelishvili confirms that he has a different opinion on the legality of the elections.

“The final report of Kardenakhi polling station # 33 stated that 934 persons took part in the elections. The total amount of invalid ballots from both the movable and main polling boxes was 808. We are unable to locate the additional 126 ballot papers. The Chalaubani DEC declared 30% of votes cast to be invalid; that is 11 ballot papers; I am doubtful of that fact too. I believe the data was falsified at the Velistsikhe and Vachnadzeani polling stations. As a member of the PEC I have a right to express my opinion at the meeting and demand to check the data. I can agree or disagree with the opinions of other commission members. Despite my rights, you can witness what is going on,” said Danelishvili.

The meeting of the PEC was resumed three hours later as a result of continuous demands of observers. As soon as the meeting started, Nato Begashvili, who was crying during the break, became more aggressive during the discussion. She did not allow commission members and observers to make comments.

“Of course we protested Begashvili’s terror and firmly demanded her to reflect our complaints, as well as the illegal activities of the chairperson in the meeting report. Our statements made Begashvili completely furious. After Zurab Danelishvili claimed his right to express his opinion, Begashvili called the police,” said Nana Devidze, the Kakheti regional coordinator of Fair Elections.

Police officers immediately rushed into the room. Begashvili ordered them to lead Davit Nikolashvili, a representative of Badri Patarkatsishvili, and other observers out of the room. Everybody protested her order and the police officers, with Shota Bezhanishvili as a head of the team, started to harass people. Law enforcement officials were beating observers and public officials called them traitors.

“I cannot tell you what was going on there. The commission chairperson was pressured and she was terrorizing others too. As a result of the situation, the deputy chairperson, Bichiko Maisuradze, changed his demands and obeyed the illicit orders. Until the meeting was ceased, Begashvili amended the final report of the elections. It is a criminal offense. Thus, we will appeal her at the Prosecutor’s Office and we will demand them to launch an investigation into the case. In addition, we will demand them to hold those police officers, who beat observers, accountable,” said Lia Khuroshvili.

The Georgian Public Defender has already showed an interest into the abovementioned events. The office of the Public Defender has started an investigation.

The victims urge international organizations to respond to the events.

Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

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