Police say twelve people were detained after protesters threw various objects in direction of UNM senior figures when they arrived at a venue in the town of Zugdidi where UNM held a conference as part of primaries through which the party is selecting its candidate for the October presidential elections.
Protesters gathered on Saturday afternoon outside the Zugdidi theater, the venue of UNM conference, saying that they were rallying against arrival of UNM leaders in the town. A cordon was made by the police forces to secure passage of conference participants to the theater and the police were not allowing protesters to approach the entrance of the Zugdidi theater.
As UNM members and delegates of the primaries started to arrive, protesters were shouting insults at them and when some of the senior UNM figures and MPs, including primary presidential candidates, showed up, protesters started throwing various objects, reportedly also stones, from behind the police cordon; UNM senior figures entered into the building escorted by police officers.
UNM said that people at the rally were mobilized by pro-GD local officials in an attempt to thwart the primaries in Zugdidi. UNM leaders said it was now important to identify those who masterminded this “stone-throwing” rally.
It was the fourth regional conference in frames of UNM primaries, which involves holding of debates between the four candidates; delegates of each such conference cast ballot to their favorite candidate after the debates. Like in three previous similar conferences, the recent event in Zugdidi was also won by UNM parliamentary minority leader Davit Bakradze. Two more conferences remain to be held and the winner, most likely Bakradze, will be announced at the final conference in Tbilisi on July 27. After the conference was over, UNM activists and their leaders had to leave the venue accompanied by insults shouted at them by protesters.
After the incident in Zugdidi, Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili condemned the violence and said that the perpetrators would be punished.
“Unfortunately, several persons were involved in violent actions against the UNM members. I want to say with full responsibility that these people will be identified and punished. We have pledged to the population, as well as to the international community, that the upcoming presidential elections will be exemplary… So we will not allow the violence and we condemn the violence,” Garibashvili said.
On Saturday evening the Interior Ministry said in a brief statement that twelve people were arrested. It said that legal proceedings against detained persons was ongoing under the article 166 of the code of administrative offenses, involving “petty hooliganism.”