Three days after its launch on May 19 an online petition, calling for prosecution of perpetrators and instigators of the May 17 violence that disrupted an attempted rally to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, attracted over 12,200 signatures – the number, which keeps rising, is significant for Georgia, especially if compared to other previous online petitions in the country.
The petition, which is addressed to President Saakashvili, PM Ivanishvili and Parliamentary Chairman Usupashvili, reads that the May 17 violence by the Orthodox clergy-led crowd against the intended anti-homophobia rally was the attack not only against LGBT groups “but also against the Georgian statehood.”
“With this action the extremist group has ignored Georgia’s constitution and legislation – the foundation of the democratic statehood,” the petition reads and lists nine criminal offenses, which the signatures believe was violated during the May 17 developments, ranging from hooliganism, violence and attack on police to breach of rights for assembly, speech and equality and obstructing journalists.
The petition also points at a clause in the Georgian criminal code, introduced last year, according to which sexual, racial, religious, orientation or other bias motives of an offender should be considered as an aggravating circumstance.
The petition says that Orthodox clergy led the aggressive crowd when they broke through police cordon and moved towards the Freedom Square, where small group of LGBT activists were planning the rally.
“Their [Orthodox priests] involvement, gestures, remarks and statements were encouraging demonstrators towards aggression and violence,” the petition reads.
It says that cost of “inaction” in the face of the May 17 developments will be too high for the Georgian democratic statehood, “because we believe that we are now facing a serious threat of religious fundamentalism and theocracy.” It also says that the only way to avoid this threat is to prosecute all the perpetrators and instigators of the violence in accordance to the law.
PM Ivanishvili said on May 21 that the investigation was still underway and although no immediate results had yet been delivered, there was no reason for “anxiety” about it.
“Stance of the law enforcement agencies, the [Interior] Minister and of the entire government is that everyone should be held responsible for violation of the law no matter whether it is an ordinary citizen or a cleric – everyone is equal before the law,” he said.