For Immediate Release
August 17, 2000
Orthodox mob continues assault on media, attorney and human rights advocates in Republic of Georgia
Today, a mob of shrieking Orthodox extremists attacked a representative of the Liberty Institute, a reporter for Radio Liberty, an attorney, and foreign observers at the Gldani courthouse in Tbilisi, Georgia.
The mob rushed at Liberty Institute representative Giga Bokeria outside of the courthouse, kicking and throwing rocks. Bokeria was attending a court hearing about an earlier attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses by the same extremists.
When Bokeria escaped, the mob turned on Georgian attorney for Jehovah’s Witnesses Mamuka Tchabashvili, foreign observers, and Radio Liberty reporter David Paichadze, beating them, tearing clothing and stealing personal items.
The assault followed similar events of the day before when the extremists, followers of the defrocked Georgian Orthodox priest Basil Mkalavishvili, invaded the same Gldani court and physically ejected two Canadians observing the hearing.
“Yesterday they threw us out of the courtroom,” said Canadian human rights lawyer John Burns. “Today, we were back in court and watched them fill the courtroom, together with their icons, crosses and burning candles. Priest Basil ordered foreigners to leave. While the judge permitted us to stay, I heard no condemnation of the events of the previous day. The five unarmed security men were little comfort in the face of this mob.”
Judge Tamazi Sabiashvili adjourned the hearing until September 18, 2000. As Burns and his associates left the courtroom, the mob turned its wrath on Bokeria, Burns said. Bokeria, a Georgian human rights defender, represents a wide cross section of religious and political minorities in Georgia.
“The Basilists then moved toward us as priest Basil shouted orders,” Burns said. “One grabbed my arm, pulled off my watch, and I fell to the ground during the scuffle. Georgian friends quickly came to my rescue, and we fled in a waiting car.”
Rustavi TV and Kavkasia TV broadcast the attacks on national news.
Georgian attorney Mamuka Tchabashvili said that continuing the hearing in Gldani will send the message that the Basilists are in control. “It will send a signal to other extremists in Georgia that mob rule, not the rule of law, prevails in Georgia,” Tchabashvili said.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600