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Khobi Residents Demand Tsotne Dadiani., Georgian Saint to be Unwrapped

Nana Pazhava, Zugdidi

Georgians could have never imagined that that so many years after his death that they would be demanding the release of Tsotne Dadiani, their historical hero, and later enshrined as a saint, especially in 21st Century. Residents of Khobi are now demanding the tape wrapped around the statue of Tsotne Dadiani, which is in the centre of the town, be removed.  The government wrapped the statue of the Georgian Saint last year as it was still a work in progress.

“From our history we can recall that Tsotne Dadiani was covered with flies and not wrapped in mask tape. He was s a Georigan nobleman of whom the medieval Georgian chronicles relate a story of how Tsotne’s self-sacrificing move saved his associates from the Mongolcaptivity and imminent death, and which made him into one of the most popular historical figures in Georgia and a saint of the Georigan Orthodox Church.

Around 1245, Tsotne was among those nobles of Georgia who attended the conspiracy meeting at Kokhtastavi in Javkheti and decided to join their forces to overthrow the Mongols. Tsotne is reported to have left the meeting earlier to rally his subjects in his duchy. In the meantime, the Mongols discovered the remaining conspirators and brought them in chains to the headquarters at Ani, But the Georgian nobles vehemently denied the plot charges and insisted that they had gathered only to discuss the collection of tribute which was to be paid to the Mongols. The interrogators had the arrestees stripped bare, bound their hands and feet, smeared them with honey, and left suffering under the scorching sun and biting insects. Tsotne, upon hearing what had happened, arrived at Ani and voluntarily joined his associates to share their fate. According to the chronicle, the Mongol commanders were so impressed by Tostne’s valor that they pardoned and released all prisoners.

On October 26, 1999, Tsotne was canonized by the Holdy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church.  Now it appears that somebody has misappropriated the money provide for his statue, Tsotne Dadiani should not be punished for the incident.

 “Tsotne Dadiani survived Mongol invaders and now he is tortured by the modern day Nazis. We cannot find better term for similar behavior. The Mongols admitted his bravery but our government wrapped him in tape to make a bit of money off his memory

Such is the opinion of the residents of Khobi about the problem related to the statue. However, the government did not ask locals about setting up the statue in the city. Thus, then why should they care about our feelings today? The authority did not consider about the fact that generally statues are not a established practice for Orthodox Saints.

Nevertheless, on September 18 2007 Khobi district government and regional Prosecutor’s Office passed a new verdict on Tsotne Dadiani and Temur Gergaia, the former Khobi district governor who was the organizer and initiator to erecting then statue.

On September 16 2007 the statue was wrapped in the tent; as for Temur Gergaia, he together with 13 high-ranking officials was all sent to the preliminary detention custody. Several days later, five men out of total 14, Badri Jibava, Mamuka Bulia, Malkhaz Bubuteishvili and Shalva Kalandia remained in custody; the rest of them were released on bail.

Gia Berishvili, Chief Prosecutor of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Regional Prosecutor’s Office charged the detainees under several articles of the Georgian Criminal Code. One of the charges against Temur Gergaia was connected with corruption connected with the erection of the statue to Tsotne Dadiani. Article 182, Paragraph Ii envisages the imprisonment from four to seven years. In total the former governor now faces fifteen-year-imprisonment.

The Prosecutor’s Office blames Temur Gergaia for having attempted misappropriation of the funds that were to have been used for the erection of the stature.  Artist Giorgi Tsuladze is also blamed for being part of the alleged crime.

The legal papers that charge the accused states that according to the agreement signed between the sides, the governor and architect misappropriated 19, 331 GEL out of total 60 984 GEL. However, the court has not passed verdict at this time.. Giorgi Tsuladze, was declared as an accomplice in the crime. However, at this time he has only been interrogated as a witness thus far.  Not long ago all five of the detained were allowed to post bail. Soon the prosecutor’s office and the accused might be able to reach a plea bargain agreement.

Reportedly, the authority and law enforcers are determined to forgive former public officials the committed crimes for their deeds during their visit to Georgian Penitentiary Establishment before the presidential elections. According to the information, the “innocent criminals” collected so many votes for Mikheil Saaikashvili within the prison that they could not have imagined that they be so successful in securing their freedom. Naturally their release is somehow connected with the upcoming parliamentary elections. People who are not completely released from imprisonment will have to visit every family in the district to show their appreciation for the government. Otherwise the deal will not be made and they will have no other way to escape from jail.

Kakha Kukava, leader of the Conservative Party, who comes from Khobi, connects the on-going situation with the policy of Roland Akhalaia, the regional prosecutor. He also speaks about the governmental reign of terror.

Kakha Kukava: “It is clear that the government fights with the opposition and many people but what do they have against Tsotne Dadiani? This person has deserved not to stand in the middle of Samegrelo region tied up for all to see. The activities of Mikheil Saakashvili’s authority against former high ranking officials is nothing less than terror…They have made Samegrelo Region similar to a Sicilian Island. Gangs meet people upon their arrival…I am sure the parliamentary elections will be wrapped up as tightly as the authority of bandits!”

Robert Gvichia, current Khobi District Governor, states the statue will be unwrapped only after the Orthodox Church will bless it. However, they did not think of asking opinion or permission from clergymen when they were setting up the statue in front of the St. Trinity Church in the first place.

The Human Rights Centre could not interview Bishop Grigol of Foti and Khobi Eparchy despite having made several attempts. 



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