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15 counter-protest activists accused of violence arrested after July 5 events

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, July 9
The investigation carried out by the Ministry of Internal Affairs revealed that on July 5, 2021, in parallel with the planned rally organized by Tbilisi Pride on Rustaveli Avenue, the participants of the protest group demonstrated violence, obstruction of journalistic activities, and homophobic attitude towards LGBTQI+ community and its supporters. Journalists and cameramen from various TV stations, Internet publications, print media were persecuted on transphobic motives due to intolerance of gender and sexual identity. Journalists were actively targeted while on professional duty.

The ‘March of Dignity’ by Tbilisi Pride was canceled on July 5 due to fears of continued violence from right-wing counter-protesters.

Four defendants who attacked journalists at the Tbilisi Pride march counter-rally have been denied release on bail. Three of them were sent to pre-trial detention for a violent attack on the journalists and cameramen of Tabula, New post agency, TV channels Rustavi 2, and Mtavari Arkhi.

Defendant Chaava, who hit journalists with a moped, denied the intentional act of violence and blamed it on the malfunction of his vehicle. One of the defendants, Mchedlidze, confessed his offence and blamed his actions on excitement, while another defendant Devdarishvili believes that he didn’t commit violence.

The detainees were charged with 3 articles of the Criminal Code. They face between 4 and 6 years in prison.

Police who were arrested 3 people for raiding the Tbilisi Pride office face between 2 and 6 years in prison. The detainees are being investigated under Article 225, Part 2, Article 156, Part 2, Subparagraph ‘a’ and Article 160, Part 3, subparagraph ‘a’ of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which stipulates participation in group violence or involves a threat of violence and the group violation of the inviolability of an apartment or other property.

According to the latest data, a total of 15 people have been arrested by law enforcement officers in connection with the attacks on journalists, harassment, gang violence, threats, and group violations of the inviolability of property, 8 of them have been charged. As of now, 25 people are known to be victims in the case, including 19 journalists and cameramen. Out of the fifty-five people injured, 53 are media representatives.

As for the July 6 rally, 3 of the 32 detainees were fined for administrative violation, the maximum fine for which is GEL3,500.

Georgian Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri said in the response to a question on July 5 about the Tbilisi Pride contract and the insufficient number of police officers at various locations in the capital, that a special task force had been deployed in the city and a total of 3,200 law enforcement officers were working that day, which is a maximum number the ministry could send at 20 different locations.

Gomelauri says that such aggression against journalists planned within the framework of Tbilisi Pride has never happened and the police were doing everything they could. According to him, the events developed in Tbilisi on July 5-6 and the work done by the Ministry of Internal Affairs were discussed at the meeting with the representatives of the Patriarchate in the Administration of the President of Georgia.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released a press release regarding attacks on journalists in Georgia, condemning the criminal passivity of the government, and called on relevant institutions to punish everyone responsible for violent attacks on peaceful protestors.