President Saakashvili condemned removal of minaret by the authorities from a mosque in the village of Chela in Adigeni municipality as “illegality committed against the Georgian Muslims”, which, he said, caused alarm of many Georgian Orthodox Christians.
Standing outside a mosque in Batumi, Saakashvili said: “I think what’s happened in Adigeni was absolutely premeditated provocation with a very bad substance, which ultimately causes confrontation between Georgians, between citizens of different confessions and it represents a continuation of a multi-month trend.”
“The fact that such things were not happening under the previous government was not because of a fear, but because of our permanent reiteration that everyone is equal in Georgia.”
“I call on the government to stop talking on the language of hatred and revenge. I call on everyone for a dialogue,” Saakashvili said.
He also said that “such provocations” might have negative geopolitical implications for Georgia.
“I want to call on the government to define its policy and to express its position in order to prevent everyone from doing such things in the future,” Saakashvili said.
“For Muslims removing minaret is like removing cross from a church for Christians,” he said.
“As an Orthodox Christian, I want to express my full respect to Muslims, who are our flesh and blood. There are several hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Georgia and several million of Muslim Georgians live in the world and no one has the right to incite strife between them and the rest of Georgians.”
Saakashvili linked the arrest of head (gamgebeli) of Adigeni municipality, Simon Parunashvili, to developments surrounding the removal of the minaret. Parunashvili was arrested on August 27 and charged by the Finance Ministry’s investigations service with abuse of office in 2011.
Saakashvili suggested that the head of Adigeni municipality was arrested after he refused “to follow illegal orders to dismantle the minaret.”
“His arrest just few days after his refusal to implement this order… on charges of exceeding official powers is not just awkward, but also a huge disrespect to the Georgian society,” he said.
“I think that legality should be restored and everyone’s rights secured. Many Orthodox Christians on the ground [in Adigeni municipality] met with indignation to what has happened,” Saakashvili said.