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Two More Arrested over Memorial’s Deadly Blast
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 22 Dec.'09 / 15:24

Demolished Memorial of Glory in Kutaisi.

The prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday that two more employees of a demolition company, SakPetkMretsvi, were arrested in connection to violation of safety standards while blowing up a World War II memorial in Kutaisi, which resulted in death of a mother and her child on December 19.

A technical director of the company in charge of the demolition was arrested on December 20; the court sent him to two-month pre-trial detention.

According to the prosecutor’s office the safety standards envisaged creation of a safety buffer zone, involving evacuation of population from “at least” 300-meter radius around the memorial.

But this standard, according to the prosecutor’s office, was violated and the police, upon the recommendation of the demolition company, sealed off only 211-meter radius and people, including the two victims, were standing 273.5 meters away from the memorial at the time of explosion.

According to the prosecutor’s office, although protection barriers were installed by the demolition company, the barriers were not high enough to stop flying chunks of concrete.

The two victims were killed by flying chunks of concrete sent by the explosion of the 46-meter-high monument – the scene captured on a video (warning: contains graphic images), apparently shot on a mobile phone by a local resident, who was among others watching the demolition process from the yard of their residential apartment.

The authorities’ decision to demolish the memorial complex was in itself highly controversial with many opposition parties condemning the move.

Official motive behind the decision was that the demolition was required in order to give way to construction of a new parliament building. According to the constitutional amendments the parliamentary sittings will be held in Kutaisi from 2012, while committee hearings will still be held in the Parliament’s current building in Tbilisi.

But as opponents of the decision, as well as many locals in Kutaisi say the area where the construction of the parliament building is planned has more than enough space for proceeding with construction without demolishing the memorial complex.

Leaders and activists from broad range of Georgia’s opposition parties, who gathered on December 21 at the site where the memorial was located, blamed President Saakashvili’s “whim” to remove the memorial for the death of the two people.  

Some Georgian media reports suggest that the demolition could have been held hastily. Initially the demolition was reportedly planned for December 21; opposition parties, protesting against the authorities plans to tear down the memorial, were planning to hold a protest rally that day.

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