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Violence in the Name of Orthodoxy – Extremists Overcame the Barrier

May 11, 2010
 Nino Gelashvili

On May 7, the debates in the program “Barrier” of the TV-Company “Kavkasia” about the book “Secret Idiotism” (insulting name of the Last Supper) turned into the quarrel. Journalist Aleko Elisashvili reported that human rights defender Beka Mindiashvili and cinema-scientist Teo Khatiashvili left the studio in protest; the representatives of the Union of Orthodox Parents and Public Orthodox Movement met them in the yard who initially insulted and then physically assaulted them. Other participants of the program also went out in the yard at the noise and interfered in the quarrel.

Later, the quarrel continued in the studio too; the head of the TV-Company Davit Akubardia was beaten; he was bleeding from teeth.

As the representatives of the Union of the Orthodox Parents state they protested the decision of the TV-Company not to allow them to participate in the program and to express their opinion openly.

The representatives of the UOP had a disagreement with a leader of the National Forum Gubaz Sanikidze. They said Sanikidze did not do anything to assist the members of the UOP to participate in the program. Gubaz Sanikidze is astonished by the incident in the Kavkasia and is sorry that expression of controversial opinions turned into a quarrel.

The clergymen also arrived at the building of the Kavkasia who protested the publishing of the book by Erekle Deisadze. The patrol police was mobilized on the place. After the incident, the members of the Alliance for Georgia Tina Khidasheli and Sopio Khorguani, members of the Conservative Party Kakha Kukava and Lasha Chkhartishvili arrived at the TV-company. The director-general of the Public Broadcasting Gia Chanturia also joined the program. They all expressed their solidarity to the employees of the Kavkasia. Chanturia stated in the name of the PB that regardless the topic of the discussion, the journalists shall be protected from oppression.

Journalist Aleko Elisashvili said that during the incident members of the UOP beat everybody who was in the yard. The cameramen and the head of the TV-Company Kavkasia Davit Akubardia were beaten.

The nephew of the anchor of the program “Barrier” Nino Jangirashvili, the cameraman of the company Luka Jangirashvili was also beaten. During the quarrel, the police wanted to detain him but since they found out that Jangirashvili worked for the TV-Company they did not arrest him.

The members of the UOP insulted the cameraman Zaza Shukvani before leaving the area.

Soon, the deputy chief prosecutor Girshel Dzebniauri, prosecutor Davit Zviadadze and investigators arrived at the place. The patrol police was also at the place and did not allow anybody to enter the TV-Company. The members of the political parties managed to enter the company before that.

“The incident in the TV-Company Kavkasia is example of extremism which has been inspired by the government for the last six years. Everybody has right to have different opinion. The violence cannot be legitimized by the government,” said Tina Khidasheli.

Member of the parliamentary majority Pavle Kublashvili said Khidasheli made irresponsible statement. “The behavior of those politicians is particularly shameful who try to accuse the government in the incident because of their political interests. Tina Khidasheli was not lazy to blame the government in the support and organizing similar incidents,” said Kublashvilil.

Kublashvili said similar incidents are provoked by the irresponsible politicians who declared the arrest of Basil Mkalavlishvili as an attack on the Orthodox Church in their political advertisements. (Mkalavlishvili was clergyman who dispersed and physically assaulted religious minorities together with his supporters).

Public Defender of Georgia Giorgi Tughushi responded to the incident in the TV-Company “Kavkasia”. Giorgi Tughushi called upon the parties to start dialogue. “I want to suggest the parties to try to resolve the problem through dialogue. All the problems which are related with certain sympathies and antipathies shall be resolved through dialogue in order to avoid controversy,:” said Giorgi Tughushi.

After the incident in the TV-Company Kavkasia, 18 people were arrested. However, only 8 of them were kept in the police station at the end; they are Levan Chachua, Avto Zumbadze, Levan Turashvili, Davit Shalamberidze, Giorgi Gabedava, Rati Maisuradze, Shota Apkhaidze. The rest were released after interrogation.

Leader of the Public Orthodox Movement Malkhaz Gulashvili , head of the organization “Solidarity to Arbitrary Detainees” Eka Beselia and clergyman of the St. Marine Church Father Davit Isakadze were at the police station.

Father Davit said the young people called him last night and informed him that the members of the UOP were being beaten in the building of the studio. The clergyman said the cameraman of the studio hit 18-year-old Jaba Gurchiani in the head. Gurchiani is in very bad conditions. The UOP holds video-recording to prove the claiming. “The people, who expressed their positions, were arrested. They did not breach the law,” said Father Davit.

On May 9, one more detainee Levan Turashvili was released after criminal liability was imposed on the others. Judge of the Tbilisi City Court Giorgi Arevadze sentenced 7 people to two-month pretrial detention.

The judge did not satisfy the solicitation of the defense side on the release of the detainees under guarantee. Attorney of one of the detainees Levan Chachua Amiran Burduli said the clergymen wanted to be the guarantees of the detainees but the judge did not envisage their solicitation and sentenced detainees to two-month pretrial detention,

The people are arrested under two charges envisaged by the Article 154 of the Criminal Code of Georgia – interference in the professional activities of journalists which envisages two-year imprisonment and by Article 239 of the Criminal Code of Georgia – hooliganism which envisages imprisonment from 2 to 5 years.

The members of the UOP and the clergymen, who attended the trial, as well as the relatives of the detainees, protested the decision of the judge and stated that there is no evidence against the detainees. Attorney Amiran Burduli said “the prosecutor has only the testimonies of the employees and agent of the TV-Company “Kavkasia” who tried to prove the guiltiness of the detainees. However, their testimonies cannot be considered by the court.”

On May 10, it was reported that the father of one of the detainees Zviad Bliadze - Givi Bliadze died. His wife Marine Barbakadze said Givi Bliadze worried about the detention of his son and on May 9, he died of heart attack in the car near the building of Tbilisi Police Main Department. She said they requested the judge to envisage the urgent situation while imposing the sentence on the detainees but he did not.

President Mikheil Saakashvili assessed the incident in the TV-Company “Kavkasia’ as an attack on the journalists and stated that similar attacks and facts of extremism should be prevented.

The US Ambassador in Georgia John Bass is concerned regarding the accident in the Kavkasia. “Certain people cannot put up with the freedom of expression in Georgia; though it is very important. A person shall not become victim of violence because of free opinion. We are happy that the police interfered in the incident on time. It is also important that people want to express their opinion freely and wants to be accountable,” said US Ambassador.

Political scientist Soso Tsiskarishvili calls upon the Patriarchate of Georgia to announce their position regarding the aggression of the UOP.

 “Silence of the church is impossible in similar situation. We should protect the honor of Orthodox Church. We hope, the Church will make clever statement,” said Tsiskarishvili while commenting on the incident in the TV-Company “Kavkasia”. He added that the incident is not local fact and the violence will continue if we do not react on it.

On May 7 the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Georgia held meeting. The Synod appealed to all political parties not to misuse the authority and fame of the patriarch and the church for their political interests. “Since the Church is one of the main power to unify the nation, Saint Synod appeals to all political parties not to misuse the authority and fame of the patriarch and the church for their political interests,” stated the Synod.

According to the Patriarchate, the St. Synod also discussed the serious problems of the society. They said the losing of territorial integrity, split of the nation, drug-addiction, lack of faith, dishonesty and propaganda of the pathological debauchery are serious threats for the nation.
“The members of the Synod also stated that those people who order and implement similar incidents sentence themselves to the gravest punishment – anathematize. Church is mysterious body of the Christ which aims to protect people from sins. Thus, we are obliged to warn them again and call upon them to regret,” the statement of the Patriarchate.

Part of society, who is against the religious extremism, accepted the appeal of the patriarchate as support of the UOP and similar odious groups. In addition to that, during the Sunday prayer, Patriarch of Georgia awarded the leader of the UOP Father Davit (Isakadze). Ilia II decorated him with Mitre and Cross that is considered to be promotion of a clergyman.

Prepared based on the materials of the Interpresnews