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Mkalavishvili at Large, Despite Detention Warrant
Tbilisi / 12 Jun.'03 / 15:17
by George Sephashvili, Civil Georgia

In spite of the court’s decision to sentence excommunicated Orthodox priest Basil Mkalavishvili to three-month pre-trial detention, the police fails to arrest him. On June 10 the Tbilisi District Court rejected an appeal of the Mkalavishvili lawyers and left the Vake-Saburtalo court ruling of June 4 on detention in force. The detention warrant on Mkalavishvili is issued.

Basil Mkalavishvili is accused of masterminding and carrying our organized violence against Jehovah's Witnesses and Baptist-Evangelists and burning their religious literature on February 32002 in Tbilisi.

The international organizations, along with the human rights organizations, have repeatedly called the Georgian authorities to put an end to religious assaults by Mkalavishvili supporters against the religious minorities.

Last year, before the rulings of the Vake-Saburtalo and the Tbilisi district courts, under the Didube-Chugureti court ruling, Basil Mkalavishvili was restrained from leaving the capital; however this did not prevent him from attacking the Baptist-Evangelist Church in Tbilisi.

The court’s ruling on Mkalavishvili’s pre-trial detention is the first step towards rule of law, and let’s avoids calling it the protection of religious minorities. It is high time to ensure that the justice exists in this country,” head of the Georgian Baptist-Evangelist Church Malkhaz Songhulashvili told Civil Georgia. 

However the police still fail to arrest Mkalavishvili. His supporters prevented the law enforcers from taking Mkalavishvili in detention on June 5, which found refuge in his church in suburb of Tbilisi.

On June 10 Mkalavishvili’s supporters held a protest rally in front of the Tbilisi District Court, protesting against the court’s decision. Most of them were carrying the posters with the following words: “Sectarian Literature was Burnt by ME”.

Kartlos Garibashvilisi, Mkalavishvili’s lawyer told Civil Georgia “the court obviously fulfilled the governmental order and left Mkalavishvili in pre-trial detention. He has already been restrained from leaving Tbilisi by the Didube-Chugureti court. So, the second decision was not necessary,”

Mkalavishvili has supporters in the Parliament of Georgia as well. Maverick MP Guram Sharadze regularly attends the protest rallies organized by Mkalavishvili’s supporters. He along with several other MPs, mediated for cancellation of the pre-trial detention warrant on Mkalavishvili. 

“The Jehovah Witnesses Organization is a sect and has never been registered in Georgia. The burnt literature was contraband. When the law-enforcers withdraw smuggled goods, they destroy them by burning, aren’t they? If this is not a crime, neither Father Basili nor his supporters are guilty,” MP Sharadze told Civil Georgia.  

Georgian Baptist-Evangelist Church Malkhaz Songhulashvili says these comments are irrelevant, as Mkalavishvili supporters have no authority to define what contraband is or indeed to destroy it.

“Let us assume that our books were contraband, who has entitled Mkalavishvili and his supporters to destroy them? Only the law enforcers have the right to fight against smuggling,” Songhulashvili said.

Law enforcers say that Mkalavishvili is supposed to be hiding in his church in Tbilisi, however the police refrain from arresting him to avoid clashes with Mkalavishvili’s supporters, which threaten with the permanent rallies in case of Mkalavishvili’s detention.

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