Scuffles broke out and stones were thrown after dozens of protesters rallied outside the opposition United National Movement (UNM) party’s local office in the town of Zugdidi in Samegrelo region on June 6.
UNM accused the Georgian Dream of being behind the rally; the ruling coalition denied it and said that although some of its supporters, and not members, could have been among the protesters, the rally was solely related to the case of 2008 disappearance and death of a military intelligence officer.
Paata Kardava, a military intelligence officer in Zugdidi, disappeared on August 27, 2008 and officially he had been regarded as missing until June 5, 2014 when the Interior Ministry announced about solving the case, saying that Kardava was murdered on the same day he disappeared from Zugdidi. A former local security official, Roman Shamatava, was charged with premeditated murder in connection to this case. Shamatava, who according to his lawyer denies charges, is already standing trial into the case related to the 2008 polling day blast in Khurcha. The Interior Ministry claimed that handcuffed and blindfolded Kardava was taken from Zugdidi to Batumi, where Shamatava took him on security agency’s motorboat 10km off the coast into the Black Sea, shot him in the head and killed, then threw body into the sea; the body has never been found. The Interior Ministry said that Shamatava was “accusing Kardava of cooperating with the Abkhaz separatists.”
Although the Interior Ministry in its statement did not mention at all Tengiz Gunava, now UNM’s candidate for Zugdidi gamgebeli (head of municipality) in the June 15 local elections and police chief in Samegrelo region in 2008, when commenting on Kardava’s case PM Irakli Garibashvili said on June 5: “It is outrageous that former governor of Samegrelo and now a candidate for gamgebeli post Mr. Gunava is involved in this case.”
On June 6 a group of protesters, among them relatives of Kardava, rallied outside the UNM’s office in Zugdidi; shouting “murderer, murderer”, they were accusing Gunava of being linked to the Kardava case; protesters were also saying that Gunava has no right to run in the elections. Gunava together with his supporters were standing inside the yard of the office at a chain-link fence, which was dividing them from demonstrators; some protesters were attacking and hitting Gunava and his supporters, who were hitting back from behind the fence; police were present trying to contain protesters; two demonstrators were reportedly detained.
Gunava accused GD of using Kardava family’s tragedy for its political purposes and UNM said in its statement that the protest was led by local activists of GD coalition and several public servants of the local self-governance bodies were also taking part in the rally.
UNM called on the authorities to stop “campaign of pressure on political opponents and to engage in equal political competition.” It also said that PM Garibashvili is personally responsibility for this incident.
GD responded that its “members were not organizers” of the rally outside the UNM office in Zugdidi. “UNM tries to use this tragic case [of Kardava] as a tool for pre-election political confrontation. GD respects memory of the late officer… and is not going to engage in this completely unacceptable polemic with the UNM,” GD said in its statement.