PM Ivanishvili said that minaret in the village of Chela was removed from a mosque because it was built illegally, but also said that the authorities should be “more cautious” while addressing religious matters.
He also said that the authorities would “study” if excessive force was used by the police against local Muslim residents of the Chela village during the removal of the minaret on August 26.
PM Ivanishvili raised the issue while delivering a prepared speech at an annual ambassadorial gathering of Georgian diplomats in Tbilisi on September 2. It was his first public comment on this issue.
Ivanishvili said that he “strongly” believes Georgia’s tradition of religious tolerance “has not disappeared.”
“Respect towards religious tolerance, religious feelings is not only our tradition, but it is also one of the fundamental principle of the Georgian constitution,” he said.
“That is exactly what makes me think that incident in the village of Chela has nothing to do with religious intolerance. The minaret was built in violation of the law; the authorities cannot turn a blind eye to arbitrariness and illegality. If the law was violated in the process of disassembling of the minaret or if excessive force was used against demonstrators [protesting against minaret’s removal], facts will be studied and appropriately reacted,” Ivanishvili said.
“But it is of utmost importance that only the state, law and court to restore the justice,” he said.
“When the case involves religious feelings, the authorities should be more cautious, because this is rather fragile issue,” he continued. “There is no alternative to accord and peace between religions.”