Several members and supporters of the opposition United National Movement were arrested following the party’s October 10 rally, held outside Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) in protest against the transfer of land plots to the companies affiliated with the former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.
According to the decision made by the Sakrebulo on October 10, two plots of land – 4 433 sq./m of land in Oqrokana settlement near Tbilisi and 1 900 sq./m of land near the Pushkin Square in the city center – were transferred at GEL 102 000 and GEL 1, respectively, to the companies affiliated with Ivanishvili and involved in the implementation of Panorama Tbilisi - a multi-functional complex on the Sololaki hillside in the old part of the city.
The Sakrebulo adopted the decision amid protests of opposition parties and a rally outside the Sakrebulo building. Georgian Young Lawyers Association also called on the Tbilisi Sakrebulo to refrain from selling the land plots.
Before the launch of the session, the opposition members of Tbilisi Sakrebulo called for the postponement of the issue on selling the land, but most members rejected the proposal. Sakrebulo members from the United National Movement, who slammed the decision on land transfer as illegal, tried to take the speaker podium, but were forced out of the building by security guards. Other opposition members of Sakrebulo also quit the session as a sign of protest, except the members of the faction “Dedaqalaqi,” who voted against the decision.
Some representatives of the United National Movement, including Parliament members, Tbilisi mayoral candidate Zaal Udumashvili and Sakrebulo membership candidates, also tried to attend the session. They gathered on the Freedom Square together with their supporters, but the police mobilized outside the Sakrebulo prevented them from entering the building.
The attempts of the mayoral candidate from the European Georgia, Elene Khoshtaria, and other party leaders, who organized a protest march from the Pushkin Square towards the Sakrebulo, to attend the session also proved unsuccessful.
Georgian Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili criticized the decision not to allow lawmakers to attend the session as “a blatant violation of law.”
The Georgian Interior Ministry confirmed the arrest of nine persons, but, according to media reports, the number of detainees amounts to 14.
The members of the opposition parties strongly criticized the Sakrebulo decision.
“They made an absolutely illegal decision. Besides the fact that they are acting illegally, formalizing the seizure of lands by Bidzina Ivanishvili, they actually neglected the law… We, the lawmakers, had the right to enter and attend the session,” said Elene Khoshtaria.
“They made this decision forcefully and demonstrated once again that if they, the majority, want, they will make any decision. This can be changed on October 21,” Khatuna Samnidze, member of the Sakrebulo from the Republican Party, said.
Zaal Udumashvili, the National Movement’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate, announced his party’s plans to hold a large-scale rally on October 14, demanding return of the “lost” lands.
“From now on, the Pushkin Square is Bidzina Ivanishvili’s garage and the Botanical Garden is Ivanishvili’s kitchen garden. This is what Tbilisi Sakrebulo did today… Let nobody think that the struggle is over with this decision. We failed to achieve the result today, but we will do it tomorrow… We will definitely achieve the result and this territory will remain a part of Tbilisi,” Udumashvili said.
According to the September 29 amendments to the capital city’s land use plan, two land plots were stripped of their status as recreational areas. Opposition parties held protest rallies on October 1-2 as well, after failing to achieve the postponement of the discussion of the issue at the September 29 session of the Sakrebulo, and were forced out of the building.