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Patriarch: violence was wrong, but so is gay "propaganda"

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, May 27
A meeting between Patriarch Ilia II and inter religious group was held on May 25, where representatives of different religious groups discussed the incident of May 17 when an attempted anti-homophobia rally was attacked by a crowd. All participants condemned any display of violence and also agreed that any kind of propaganda of homosexuality is unacceptable.

However, according to the Patriarchate, the actions of the clergy involved in the incident will be examined and responded to appropriately.

On May 24 several hundred people gathered in downtown Tbilisi to protest against violence and the Georgian Church, which they believe, is attempting to claim supremacy over the state. “No to Theocracy” was written on the posters. Demonstrators were requesting the rule of law to be applied to every citizen– including clergy, who have thus far not been held responsible their violent role in the attacks.

At the same time, another rally was held in the same park by a group of people, protesting against the propaganda of homosexuality in Georgia. Protesters also were expressing their support to the Georgian Church.

Some accused the government and particularly the Interior Ministry in failing to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens during the church's attempt to establish theocracy in the country.

The Public Defender’s office, Georgian non-governmental organizations as well as The Georgian Church are actively involved in discussions over the May 17 incident.

Numerous NGOs expressed their dissatisfaction with the law enforcement agencies, stating that police had to take more efficient steps as a response to the incident.

In the statement released by Transparency International Georgia, it is said that the police could not ensure the safety of the rally participants on May 17.

“The measures which had been put in place by the police to ensure the safety of the rally participants were both inadequate and ineffective. They failed to withstand the number and unrestrained, violent behavior of the counter-demonstrators,” the statement says.

In a joint statement released by human rights watchdogs on May 24, they are requesting an efficient and comprehensive investigation into the incident. They also address the Georgian Church with the query to take preventive measures to avoid any display of violence from clergy and their supporters.

An official statement of the Patriarch was released on May 22. Ilia II condemned violence and expressed his regrets over May 17 developments. According to the Patriarchate, the country will not accept the legalization of the sin, but despite this, violence has no justification.

Two clerics and two other civilians were charged in connection with the May 17 incident. Charges against Archimandrite at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Antimoz (Tamaz) Bichinashvili, and father superior at Ioane-Tornike Eristavi Monastery, Iotam (Irakli) Basilaia involve illegally impeding the right to assembly and demonstration with the use of force or threat of force. Predictably however, the clerics have not been arrested.

Other suspects were fined by the Tbilisi Court on May 21st. Three young men and a 16 year old were found guilty of petty hooliganism and released with 100 GEL fine.

Despite the actions undertaken by law enforcement and charges filed against the suspects, society still remains anxious about the May 17 developments. Intense discussions went beyond constitutional rights for LGBT people. Many started to question the efficiency of police forces and the true power of the Georgian Church, whether it was trying to claim supremacy over the government.