The messenger logo

PM: Use of force during June 20-21 protests was legitimate

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, July 1
Georgian Prime Minister, Mamuka Bakhtadze says that the use of force by the police during June 20-21 protests was legitimate, adding there was no other way out.

However, Bakhtadze noted that the investigation into the alleged use of excessive force by law enforcers would be maximally transparent.

The PM made the statement at the press conference before the governmental session on Friday.

Bakhtadze spoke about the June 20-21 large-scale protests which started in Tbilisi after the arrival of the Russian MPs in Tbilisi parliament while attending the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). The opposition MPs and the protesters did not allow the IAO session to continue as they tried to enter the parliament. Later, a decision was taken to wrap up the session and for the Russian delegation to leave the country. During the riots, 240 people were injured, more than 300 were detained.

“The use of force was legitimate because there was no other option. All international organizations and international partners confirmed this. At the same time, of course, the society and we, as the part of society, have questions regarding the use of excessive force by specific law enforcers, as there is some footage showing the above,” he said.

The PM noted the investigation is ongoing with a high degree of transparency. “The Public Defender’s Office is involved in the process and we will ensure the highest degree of transparency in this investigation,” he said.

Bakhtadze added that June 20-21 were very hard days for Georgia.

“These were the hardest seconds for each of us and for the Georgian state. No international organizations have any questions about the legitimacy of the use of force and this is unambiguous,” he said.

According to the PM, “sadly, the irresponsible opposition, the people who provoked all this, the people who used the fair protest for their provocative purposes, are now trying to prove the opposite.”

Bakhtadze mainly referred to the opposition party United National Movement (UNM), saying they and their leader, former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili “were waiting for the government to stumble.”

“Unfortunately, we have stumbled… They [the UNM] had been waiting for this for seven years and ambuscaded their own country, own people… This has triggered sincere emotions in our citizens, sincere protest and each of sympathies this protest… We saw that destructive force was involved and everyone saw that this destructive force was trying to use this sincere protest for its provocative purposes,” he added.

The PM noted that the peace of the Georgian population was posed threat, there was “a direct attack” on the Constitution of Georgia and everything would have been ended with chaos for the country “if this aggressive force managed to storm the Parliament.”

Bakhtadze also added that while the investigation is underway blaming Interior Minister, Giorgi Gakharia, who is accused of the opposition and the protesters in exceeding powers when the rally was dispersed with rubber bullets, is not correct.

“The main point is that the police had no other option but use the force…No one is interested in our team in keeping their seats, especially a person with high values, like Gakharia,” the PM said in response to the calls on Interior Minister’s resignation.

UNM member and MP Nika Melia, who was charged by the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia (POG) with organizing, leading and participating in group violence on June 20-21and released by Tbilisi City Court on a GEL 30,000 bail, says he really suggested the protesters enter the parliament.

Melia says he would do the same if he could return the time because the “enemy of Georgia, an aggressor and occupant” [Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov] was in the chair of the parliament speaker.

“This is why I made the statement about entering the parliament…The main aim of the protest was to receive a proper answer from the government why this happened,” he added.

In addition, the member of the opposition European Georgia, Elene Khoshtaria, said the explanations of the PM about June 20-21 developments are “ridiculous.”

She says Bakhtadze’s statement that the protests were orchestrated by some opposition forces, is an insult of the demonstrators who have been in the streets since June 20.

“We have been listening to the statements of the inadequate PM…In reality, he has no powers to influence these processes somehow,” she added, noting that the person who makes decisions is the Chair and founder of the ruling Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Furthermore, the Ambassadors of EU countries have released a special statement on Georgia. They call parties for dialogue and compromise concerning the ongoing events in Georgia.

“It is necessary to conduct a transparent, quick, and effective investigation into the alleged use of excessive force on June 20, as well as the incitement of violence that led to the police response. The involvement of the ombudsman is of utmost importance. We call on the parties for dialogue and compromise,” the statement reads.