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Opposition slams NGO leader for accusing some of them in being destructive at Tbilisi rallies

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, July 16
Members of the United National Movement and the European Georgia parliamentary minority have criticized a board member of the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) NGO, Sopho Verdzeuli, for stating that several of the opposition members acted “absolutely irresponsibly, destructively and shamefully” during the June 20 rally, “making the protest violent after 10 p.m.”

She said in her Facebook status that both the Interior Ministry and the opposition members carried the responsibility for the consequences of the rally dispersal, leaving 240 injured [two people losing eyes] and 305 detained.

Verdzeuli said that the group of opposition politicians “did nothing to calm the crowds, just, on the contrary, pushed them to violence.”

She said that the demand for the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia is “correct and fair.” However, “telling the half-truth will provide no benefits for the country.”

“It is not right to raise the fair demand and at the same time close eyes on the attack on law enforcers on the day and irresponsible activities of certain politicians,” Verdzeuli said.

Member of the European Georgia opposition Otar Kakhidze said that the call of the United National Movement opposition member Nika Melia, “on the peaceful entering of the parliament yard,” may not have been right. However, Verdzeuli, “with the mask of an unbiased observer, is trying to confirm the government’s version.”

The United National Movement has released a statement, placing Verdzeuli’s impartiality “under the serious question mark.”

Before writing the Facebook post, EMC provided the evaluations of the June 20-21 events.

“As of today, considering the materials at hand and limited methodological instruments for analyses, the EMC considers that on June 20, the behavior of the part of the protestors on Rustaveli Avenue gained uncontrolled violent character and gave the police the legal ground for interfering with freedom of assembly and dispersal. However, during dispersal, the police disregarded legal requirement prescribed for dispersal and failed to utilize negotiation resources,” the NGO says.

Tbilisi Protests were sparked by an address of Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov from the seat of the Georgian parliamentary speaker on June 20, during an international religious forum – the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, chaired by Gavrilov.

The public was irritated by seeing an MP from the occupant country at the high tribune of the country’s legislative body.

The Georgian Dream ruling party said that the rally was “justified and sincere,” placing the responsibility for the “huge mistake” onto the event organisers.

The government says that the rally dispersal became necessary as the peaceful protest “was transferred into violence by the opposition and an attack on police and state institutions.”

Member of the United National Movement Melia has been charged with incitement to violence.

The opposition says that the government is “fully responsible” for the tension as they allowed Russian MPs to enter the country and then “threw rubber bullets to the youth protesting occupation.”

Police used rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas during the dispersal.