The Georgian Interior Ministry said that recent series of arrests of individuals affiliated to political parties were made in response to specific incidents number of which increased following the prison abuse scandal.
Local watchdog groups have said that series of arrests of more than twenty politically active individuals, among them activists from the Georgian Dream opposition coalition, mainly for alleged administrative offenses, as well as shortcomings revealed in legal proceedings undertaken in at least several of these cases, raise suspicion that these detentions were politically motivated.
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Riccardo Migliori also expressed concern over arrests of opposition activists in lead up to the elections and called on the authorities to show “due restraint particularly during this sensitive time.”
“In recent days, regrettably, we have seen an upsurge in cases of violent behavior, most of them involving individuals affiliated with political parties,” the Georgian Interior Ministry said in a statement on September 25.
It said that despite a previously calm environment, “in the aftermath of the prison abuse scandal, tempers have been high and a pattern of aggressive, threatening, and sometimes violent behavior has emerged.”
“This includes threats against public officials and political party supporters, and in many cases of physical attacks or threats of physical attacks,” it said. “While most protests and political events remain peaceful, the behavior of some political activists has become very problematic ahead of the election.”
“All law enforcement officials and police officers have been instructed to remain calm and exercise extreme restraint in this period of political activity. In the vast majority of these conflicts, law enforcement bodies have not arrested or detained anyone. However, in incidents where the physical safety of individuals or authorities is threatened, the police have a responsibility to respond to stop the escalation of more serious violence.”
“None of the detentions are politically motivated, but were responses to specific incidents. Police will continue to enforce the law and ensure that all Georgians and political parties can campaign in a peaceful and secure environment,” the Interior Ministry said.
It said that apart of activists from the Georgian Dream, police also arrested one ruling party activist “for attacking” a cameraman of Info9, which is an affiliate news service of Bidzina Ivanishvili-funded Channel 9 TV station.