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Pankisi Residents Hold Protest, Cancel Local Festival

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, September 24
Annual local festival Pankisoba did not take place this year as a result of the protest rally of Pankisi Gorge residents.

The celebration was about to take place on August 22, but the locals said they would not let Akhmeta Municipality hold the event until the case of Temirlan Machalikashvili, 19, killed during the special, anti-terrorist operation last winter, is thoroughly investigated.

“Pankisoba 2018 was postponed until 2048 or until the authorities do not conduct a fair investigation into Machalikashvili’s case,” one of the residents stated.

Meanwhile, father of the killed 19-year old, Malkhaz Machalikashvili, claims he will not let anyone hold celebrations in Pankisi, adding the government is doing nothing to punish his son’s killers.

“My son was innocent and he was the victim of a mistake and now the authorities do not even want to admit this. Instead, they are trying to provoke and irritate me by arranging festivities here,” Machalikashvili said.

Temirlan Machalikashvili received a head-wound during a special operation in the Pankisi Gorge on 26 December 2017. He died on January 10 in a hospital.

Georgian law-enforcers claim that Machalikashvili was shot when he tried to detonate a grenade. However, the family and relatives say that he was sleeping when law-enforcers shot him without warning.

The father of the deceased young man has several demands. He wants law enforcers to confess that his son was killed by mistake. He also demands his family be granted the status of the victim, adding his son was the victim of someone’s mistake.

Machalikashvili calls on the government to hold everyone involved in the operation responsible, adding the authorities are trying to accuse his son of having links with terrorists.

Malkhaz Machalikashvili has been holding protest rallies for several months already. The protest is underway at the old parliament building in Tbilisi.