A pro-government group in Lanchkhuti, town in Guria region in western Georgia, brought on Wednesday a small welding machine at the local office of opposition UNM party and welded its door shut.
Local media outlet, Guriis Moambe, reported that the police was at the scene during the incident, but did not intervene and no one was detained.
It also reported that local municipality employees were among the protesters outside the opposition party’s office.
It was the latest in series of incidents that took place against UNM local offices in several towns this week, among them in Kutaisi, Batumi, Gori, Akhaltsikhe, Ozurgeti, Gurjaani, Telavi, Tetritskaro, Poti and Rustavi.
In what appeared to be coordinated rallies in different locations across the country on October 19-20, pro-government groups, among them employees of local self-governance bodies, marched at UNM’s local offices chanting slogans like “get out from Georgia” and leaving outside the offices posters like “Liquidated”.
In some towns, among them in Akhaltsikhe, Gori and others, doors of UNM offices were nailed shut. Minor scuffle was reported in Kutaisi where pro-government activists tried to break into the UNM’s local office and where the police intervened.
These incidents took place after a graphic video of sexual abuse of two detainees by law enforcement officers that took place in 2011, when UNM was in power, was posted on October 17 on Ukraine-based video sharing website. The video was from the cache unearthed by the current authorities in 2013 in Samegrelo region. 11 people were convicted, some in absentia, in connection to torture of detainees.
The video footage was leaked just after polls, showing sharp decline in support of GD ruling coalition, were released, prompting allegation by government opponents that the authorities leaked the video to distract public attention from unfavorable polls and to give ruling coalition politicians a reason to speak again about those crimes that were committed when UNM was in power.
Pro-government groups organized outdoor screening of the graphic video of sexual abuse of detainees at public places in downtown Tbilisi and Zugdidi on October 18, which was condemned by the Georgian Public Defender, civil society and rights groups. In Zugdidi the event was attended by city mayor Irakli Gogokhia of the GD ruling coalition.
Noting that recent rallies at UNM offices, following the leaking of graphic video, were organized by government-affiliated groups, ten civil society organizations said in their joint statement on October 20 that “it is impossible to provide democratic development of the country through instilling additional aggression, hatred.”
The statement, joined among others by Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Transparency International Georgia, and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, also says that the political parties should not be guided by “narrow party interests, which aim at short-term effect and serve only the purpose of strengthening own position ahead of elections.”
In a separate statement, another group of civil society organizations, said that public screening of “so-called torture footage, organized with active participation of public servants, and the subsequent onset, within a few hours, of targeted attacks against the UNM, with participation of Georgian Dream activists, prove that this is all part of a unified, premeditated process of the government, which serves to dislodge the main opposition force from the political playing field in the lead-up to the elections.”
“Such violent acts against opposition parties and their supporters are unquestionably undemocratic and illegal and create the threat of irreparable damage to both Georgia’s internal and external stability,” reads the statement by five civil society organizations, among them Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI); Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS); Media Development Foundation (MDF).