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Police acted within law

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, March 16
The head of the Adjara Patrol Police, Kakha Bukhradze, commented on the March 11-12 clashes in Batumi, Georgia’s Black Sea city, denying the locals' allegations about disproportionately high fines by police for minor traffic offenses.

Bukhradze says that the police in Adjara region act within the law.

"The police are acting – and have acted – within the law. It is necessary for all citizens to follow traffic rules and obey the law. No one is above the law and everybody is equally responsible before the law,” the police chief stated.

He underlined that the main task of the patrol police is to avoid accidents and provide the safety of the population.

Bukhradze also commented on another allegation towards him, about calling the Adjara population “Tatars”.

“This is a defamatory statement and I do not even want to repeat it. Anyone who knows me will not believe that I said anything like that. It was shameful to accuse me of that," said Bukhradze.

The confrontation between Batumi locals and law enforcements started on March 11, when a man and his companion refused to accept a fine for parking in the wrong place.

When the police detained six people for resistance, this led to a larger protest of hundreds of locals, who gathered at the police department and demanded the release of the detained and the resignation of the police chief.

Once the situation escalated and the young rioters began throwing stones, damaging cars, and setting fire to nearby vehicles, the police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

A total of 33 people required medical attention. 15 of them were law enforcement bodies. The investigation into the case is underway.

The Interior Ministry reported that over 40 people were arrested during the clashes, however, all of them, except seven people, were released until the issue is thoroughly investigated in order to avoid further tension.

Local activist and human rights defender Merab Gogoberidze said the rally was organized by him, but he said the government was responsible for the damage the protesters inflicted to local infrastructure.

The protest rally against police started in the Adjara after Gogoberidze wrote a post on his Facebook page earlier, saying the head of the Batumi patrol police was calling the Adjara population “Tatars”. He said he had no evidence proving this and heard about this from the police chief’s inner circle.

Gogoberidze also claimed the police were exceeding their powers when fining people with unfairly high fines.