Break up of hunger strike and arrest of eleven protesters by the police on January 3 was illegal, Giorgi Tugushi, the Georgian public defender, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The rally was held in full compliance with Georgia’s law on assembly and manifestations. The participants of the rally were not occupying traffic, were not blocking the traffic and have not violated the law on assembly and manifestations,” the Public Defender said in the written statement.
He also said that the participants of the rally did not either violated articles 166 (petty hooliganism) and 173 (disobedience to police orders) of code of administrative offenses; eleven participants of the rally were arrested and charged under these articles. The Tbilisi City Court found them guilty and fined each with GEL 400.
The Public Defender said that the Interior Ministry’s claims, that participants of the rally disobeyed police request to remove an improvised tent and resisted police, were not supported by available video footage of the incident.
“At the time when the police started arresting participants of the rally, no tent is visible at the memorial. Law enforcement officers and individuals in plain clothes were insulting participants of the rally verbally and physically, while there was no illegal action on the part of the participants of the rally,” the ombudsman said.
He recommended the Georgian Chief Prosecutor and the Interior Minister to raise the issue of responsibility of those persons, who violated law during the dispersal of the protest on January 3.
Meanwhile on January 4 dozens of people gathered close to the memorial of the Georgian fallen soldiers on the Heroes’ Square to express solidarity towards the arrested protesters. The rally participants, however, were not able to gather immediately at the memorial after the police ordered them to leave the site.