Merabishvili Vows to Keep Police Away from Politics
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 6 May.'10 / 01:11
  • Police critisized for not provide proper security of protesters against hardline Orthodox Christian groups.

Vano Merabishvili, an influential minister of interior, said on May 5 that the police would remain "neutral", stay away from politics and would protect the rights of all citizens no matter of thier political affiliation.

In an interview with Rustavi 2 TV, aired late on May 5, Merabishvili again defended the decision to declare May 6 as the Georgian Police Day and said that "a small-scale parade" of the police forces would be held outside the new building of the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi outskirts to mark the day.

Several opposition groups condemned the decision and announced about the plan to hold a protest rally in the vicinity of the Interior Ministry on May 6. The ministry announced on Wednesday that the traffic would be closed in vicinity of the ministry from 8am to 1pm on May 6 because of the planned parade.

"There were multiple attempts last year to involve the police in political confrontation," Merabishvili said. "Any attempt, no matter by whom, to involve the police in political confrontation are doomed to a failure, because the police have been and will be one of the most authoritative structures in the state."

"We will protect the rights of each citizen, no matter of thier political, religious or ethnic affiliation; it won't be possible to do if the police are not neutral," he added.

The most recent case when complaints have been voiced towards the police occurred on May 4, when a Facebook-generated rally outside the Ilia State University in Tbilisi center in support of freedom of expression was disrupted by a hardline Orthodox Christian group, some members of which resorted to violence, physically assaulting demonstrators. Complaints have been voiced that when the scuffle took place, the patrol police, although tried to part the conflicting sides, failed to take appropriate measures to protect peaceful demonstrators when they were attacked.
 
The demonstrators, holding banners like "No to Fascism", were gathered outside the university in what appeared to be a counter-rally to a previous day's protest at the same venue by Orthodox groups, joined by some students, condemning a controversial new book, which they perceived as an insult of thier religion and demanded resignation of Ilia State University's rector, Gigi Tevzadze, who they claimed was promoting the book by allowing to hold its promotional presentation in the University building. 

In the interview with the Rustavi 2 TV Merabishvili also said that one of the major challenge of Georgia's security structures was to prevent any possible destabilization "ordered or supported by a foreign state".

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