Protest rally in village Duisi, December 27, 2017. Photo: Sulkhan Bordzikashvili
Residents of Georgia’s north-eastern Pankisi gorge, populated predominantly by ethnic Kists, a sub-group of the Chechen people, appealed to the authorities on December 27 expressing concern over the handling of the security forces operation a day earlier, which resulted into the detention of five individuals residing in the area.
One of the detained - 18-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili - was shot in the head and hospitalized during the operation, following his failed attempt to activate a hand grenade, according to the December 26 statement of the State Security Service. Machalikashvili’s relatives, however, claim he was asleep when the officers entered his room and opened fire.
The Pankisi Union of Elders, which convened a special meeting in village Duisi on the matter, released a brief statement on behalf of the Union and other civic organizations based in Pankisi, saying they were “closely watching the recent developments concerning the security forces operation.”
“We unanimously agree that it is the government’s task to establish order in the country, and in this context nobody is against the implemented measures, but we are dissatisfied with the forms and the methods which led to the gravest condition of Temirlan Machalikashvili,” reads the Union’s statement.
The Union members then stressed their wish “that investigation should be objective and everything should be done to ensure that innocent people are not held accountable,” and expressed their hope that the government would “take into consideration the opinion of Pankisi residents and lead the investigation in the right direction.”
Later, several hundred local residents held a protest rally in village Duisi.
One of their speakers - Muraz Goderdzishvili - told journalists after the meeting that the incident involving Machalikashvili “caused great outrage in the entire gorge.”
He also said the protesters were not against enforcement of law, but added that they had “questions” over the way Machalikashvili was detained, and said the incident “was a negative development for the area after positive steps made during the last years.”
Goderdzishvili also expressed his hope that the case would be “objectively” investigated, and that the shooter that had wounded Machalikashvili would be punished, adding that otherwise the protesters would “see what we can do, within the law.”