For Immediate Release
June 30, 2000
(Georgian in PDF format)
Religious literature destroyed in Tbilisi fire
TBISLSI, Georgia—On June 28, 2000, at around 4 a.m., Givi Barnadze woke up to find the storehouse for religious literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses enveloped in flames. The lives of the Barnadze family, including the children, who are sleeping in an adjacent room during the blaze, are put in grave danger. As a result of the fire, almost six tons of books, brochures and magazines were destroyed.
There is a reason to believe that the fire was an act of arson. A large burned hole in one of the literature pallets indicates that the fire may have started from the floor. Representatives from the electric company confirmed that the wiring in the garage was not the cause. It was also noted that one of the large metal gates around the literature-storage property had been forced open during the night. As the fire was being put out, an unfamiliar 10-liter gas can was found on the ground alongside the literature transportation truck; within a few minutes, however, the can mysteriously disappeared.
“This incident concerns us very much,” reports Arno Tüngler, representative of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Our fellow believers have already been openly attacked by the ultra-nationalists and the members of the radical Bassilist sect. To this day, those responsible for the attack in Gldani on October 17, 1999 have not answered for their actions. On that Sunday morning, around 120 persons who attended a religious meeting were viciously attacked while their meeting was being held inside a hall. That same day, literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses was publicly burned. Many eyewitnesses saw the incident on television. Obviously, attempts to revoke the legal registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses will open the door for more violent attacks against the citizens of Georgia professing this religion.”
On June 26, 2000, a three-judge panel overturned the February 29, 2000, decision of the Isani-Samgori District Court in Tbilisi, which had found no grounds for the claims of ultra-nationalist politician Guram Sharadze allegations that the Witnesses' literature was anti-state and anti-Orthodox and that their registration was illegal He also asserted that their registration was illegal. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Georgia are appealing that decision to the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600