Residents of a 13-storey apartment block in downtown Tbilisi were forcibly evicted by police on July 20, prompting further allegations of official disregard for property rights.
Tbilisi Municipality’s supervisory agency, which is charged with overseeing building codes in the capital, started demolishing the building later that day.
The agency said the building had been built illegally, with many violations of construction norms, which could have resulted in its collapse.
The disputed apartment block is in the heart of the city on Tabukashvili Street, next to a building, which is slated to become the Kempinski Hotel in 2010.
Former occupants claim the municipality’s stated reasons for the demolition are just a pretext, with the real motive being the incorporation of the site into the proposed hotel complex, built by the Aword company.
Occupants were told to vacate their homes on July 21. One of them, speaking on Georgian television, said, “I do not know where to go now.”
Their plight has been worsened with compensation still unclear. Officials say that an investor has agreed with six owners to pay USD 1,200 or USD 1,400 per square meter – depending on the condition of the flat – in compensation.
Some owners, however, have said no one has approached them so far with an offer. “I do not believe any one will come and compensate us now when we have already been forced out from our homes,” one woman said on television.
Sozar Subari, the public defender, told reporters at the scene on July 20 that the authorities’ actions were “illegal” and “barbaric.”
“When we treat private property this way, it means that we do not live in a constitutional state,” he said.