All nine men, who up until now remained in police custody following a clash between locals and the police on August 26 when the authorities forcibly removed minaret from a mosque in the village of Chela of Adigeni municipality, were released on Tuesday.
Six of them were released after court fined them with GEL 400 each for administrative offenses; three men were released after being charged with criminal offense of resisting police; their trial is pending.
Protesters, mainly from Muslim communities of Chela and nearby villages, who were gathered outside the regional police headquarters in Akhaltsikhe from August 26 following the removal of the minaret, dispersed late on Tuesday afternoon after calls from a Muslim cleric from Khulo, Adjara autonomous republic, who arrived in on the protest site on August 27. Protesters were saying that they would keep on insisting on return of the removed minaret.
On August 20 a local city council (Sakrebulo) in Adigeni passed a decision according to which the minaret was constructed illegally without obtaining permission from the local authorities. But formally the reason for removal was not this decision of Sakrebulo; the Revenue Service at the Finance Ministry said it was behind the move. It said that the minaret was removed for the purpose of its inspection to verify if the metal construction materials, used for building of the minaret, were properly declared when cargo was imported into Georgia on July 14. An official from Revenue Service’s press office told Civil.ge on Tuesday that examination of the minaret was ongoing, but she was not able to say when the process would be over.