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Interior Minister under Fire, as Riot Police Disperse Protesters
/ 1 Jul.'05 / 02:55
Civil Georgia

Riot police lined up on Rustaveli Avenue
to prevent protesters from moving on the road.
Parliamentarians from the opposition New Rights, Republicans and Conservatives parties agreed to jointly demand resignation of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili at the parliamentary session on July 1.

This decision of the opposition parties follows after the Interior Ministry’s riot police dispersed a protest rally organized by a group of sportsmen, mainly the Georgian wrestlers, on Rustaveli Avenue in downtown Tbilisi late on June 30, who were protesting against the detention of Aleko Davitashvili, President of the Georgian Wrestling Federation and Georgian judo champion Giorgi Revazishvili.

Reportedly, dozens of protesters were arrested by the police.

“It was, for sure, an excessive use of force by the police and those opposition parties which have representation in the Parliament will push the issue of responsibility of Interior Minister,” Tina Khidasheli of the Republican Party said.

The Interior Ministry posted a statement on its web-site on July 1 saying that the “events” that took place late on June 30 was an attempt to organize “public disorders” and that the criminal case has been initiated to investigate the incident.

Aleko Davitashvili and Giorgi Revazishvili were arrested on June 28 and for alleged extortion charges. The police claim that two men were arrested while attempting to extort USD 8,000 from Greek businessman in Tbilisi. Court sentenced two men, who strongly deny charges, to a three-month pre-trial detention on June 30.

Police clashed with the 30-40 friends and colleagues of detained sportsman after they blocked the central avenue of the capital city approximately at 11 pm on June 30. The law enforcers say that they acted in frames of law and dispersed rally only after the protesters blocked the street.

Several opposition party leaders, including MP Davit Gamkrelidze of New Rights, MP Koba Davitashvili of the Conservative Party and Shalva Natelashvili of the Labor Party, appeared on the scene shortly after the rally was dispersed and condemned use of force against protesters. The opposition leaders were accusing authorities of “undemocratic” actions.

More people started gathering on Rustaveli Avenue shortly after the opposition leaders appeared on the scene. As a result more units of the riot police were deployed on the avenue by the midnight. Tensions started to defuse by 2 am on July 1. Riot police units also started pulling out from the site by that time.

One group of Georgian sportsmen, including Olympic medalists, convened an overnight press conference and condemned the incident, but also called on the opposition parties to refrain from being involved in the situation.

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