President Giorgi Margvelashvili expressed “regret” on Thursday over an incident that took place outside the Patriarchate in Tbilisi between two groups of demonstrators on January 8.
A group of human rights activists were gathered outside the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Church in Tbilisi to protest against surrogacy remarks made in the Patriarch’s Christmas address. Counter-demonstrators also rallied at the same venue, leading to a minor scuffle after Orthodox activists verbally and physically insulted several protesters; four men were detained by the police, which were lined up in between the two groups of demonstrators. Three of them were fined with GEL 100 each for “petty hooliganism” and the fourth one was reprimanded by the court on January 9.
In a written statement on January 9, President Margvelashvili said no reason justifies violence in the society of free persons. “This is an unwavering will of our government and it has been noted for multiple times by the Georgian Patriarch as well,” reads the statement.
“Historically, Georgia is a country of tolerance, where differences are respected. That’s exactly what made us keep our diversity, which we are rightly proud of. Ethnic, religious, cultural diversity of our country is and should always be an inexhaustible resource for dialogue and cooperation and not for confrontation,” the President said.
“Today the Georgian media is free and it should open its doors for discussing problematic issues… I call on all the sides to respect opponents’ constitutional right for freedom of expression. No matter how unacceptable an opinion might be, the right of expression is inviolable.”