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Protesters demand resignation of GD Sakrebulo member for insulting doctor Gaprindashvili, the ruling team takes no actions

By Levan Abramishvili
Wednesday, December 18
Four people were arrested for resisting police while setting up a tent at the office of Tbilisi City Assembly member yesterday.

Protesters gathered to demand the resignation of Sakrebulo member from the ruling Georgian Dream party Erekle Kukhianidze, who accused doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili and his family of provocation. Gaprindashvili has been illegally detained by the de-facto authorities of the Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region for over a month.

Kukhianidze published the critical post on his personal Facebook page, where he offensively talked about Gaprindashvili’s family, accusing them of being provocateurs, after the doctor’s family criticized GD for holding a celebratory rally, saying that there is no time for festivities.

“When you know there’s an occupier and will arrest you and you go on purpose… You also know that your country is deprived of the ability to actively resist the occupier and after this, your family goes against the state – either the whole family is idiots or provocateurs, f*ck you!” read Kukhianidze’s post.

Georgian civil society, activists, government officials, and the diplomatic corps have been tirelessly protesting the illegal detainment of the famous Georgian doctor, therefore Kukhianidze’s remarks resulted in a massive backlash, culminating to the protests at the Tbilisi City Assembly building.

However, some of Kukhianidze’s teammates were quick to distance themselves from the comments, but they wouldn’t talk about the possibility of him leaving his position.

Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani, for example, said that the Government isn’t sparing efforts for the release of Gaprindashvili, but adding that nobody should leave their official position for expressing themselves.

“Emotional or political statements hurt primarily the interests of the detainee, whose release is one of our top priorities. Government agencies have been mobilized, putting unprecedented efforts since the first hour of detention, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that someone should resign. We all have the right to express ourselves, even if it’s done with the most shocking words,” said Tsulukiani.

Other members of the Georgian Dream have also expressed their concerns about their teammate’s controversial comments, however, they refrained from explicitly saying he should resign. For the lack of consequences for such actions, the opposition has accused the Government of sharing Kukhianidze’s position.

The protesters managed to enter Kukhianidze’s cabinet in the City Assembly building, setting up a tent there and refusing to leave until he agrees to resign. The police had to forcefully drive out the protesters from the building, arresting four activists for disobedience.

Levan Khabeishvili, a member of the City Assembly from the opposition United National Movement has been particularly active in demanding the resignation of his colleague, criticizing the ruling team for inaction.

“Whoever is protesting should be thrown out by the police and whoever is slapping our captive citizen in the face should sit in the Assembly? Kukhianidze was disavowed by his children and his wife and we couldn’t make the Georgian Dream denounce him. This is unheard of,” said Khabeishvili.

Afterward, the representatives of the opposition met with the Chair of the City Assembly Giorgi Tkemaladze. After the meeting, Khatia Dekanoidze, a member of the UNM told reporters that their only demand was for Kukhianidze to resign from his position and they didn’t get any answers from the chairman of the other GD members of the Assembly.

According to Dekanoidze, the ruling team’s inaction to take measures against Kukhianidze gives legitimacy to Gaprindashvili’s actions.

"We met with the Chairman of the Sakrebulo with only one demand – for Erekle Kukhianidze to resign. When they say that they distance themselves from his comments, then they should expel him from the party, make him leave his mandate. The person who insulted Vazha Gaprindashvili, who’s is detained by the occupation forces should leave Sakrebulo. If they don’t do this, it will be a legitimization of Vazha Gaprindashvili’s arrest. I couldn’t understand what their answer was,” said Dekanoidze.

Opposition MP Elene Khoshtaria, who also participated in the meeting, said that everyone should agree that insulting Gaprindashvili, a doctor arrested by the occupiers, is unacceptable. According to her, the protests will continue until Kukhianidze resigns.

There have been very few issues in the past years that the Georgian society could agree on one position and demanding freedom for the illegally detained doctor is one of them. By going against the efforts of his own team, the civil society and the international community to free Gaprindashvili, Kukhianidze insulted not only the doctor and his family but all the people who are not sparing efforts to end the illegal detention.

The Georgian Dream has to step up and take a firm stance against such declarations, especially those using such language. Tsulukiani might think that the Facebook post was mere freedom of expression with ‘shocking words’, however, what she and her colleagues don’t realize is that holding a public office comes with duties and responsibilities and not insulting your citizens, especially those who are in a vulnerable situation, is certainly one of them.

Gaprindashivli’s family organized a rally near the occupation line a few days ago to demand freedom for the doctor.

The occupation forces arrested Gaprindashvili on November 9 for crossing the so-called border. The doctor entered the occupied territory to assist a sick woman who couldn’t get medical help because the so-called occupation regime had closed the checkpoint, causing a humanitarian crisis.