For Immediate Release
March 8, 2001
Orthodox priests lead mob attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses while police refuse to intervene
TBILISI, GEORGIA—On March 6, four Orthodox priests led a mob of about 150 men on a violent rampage against Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Sachkhere, western Georgia.
According to Alexi Ichkitidze, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses living in Sachkhere, “A mob led by the priest Avto Tshabadze and fellow priest Bartholomew of the Chorvila parish, invaded my home. They viciously assaulted me and a visiting friend, Savle Gotsadze. Then they savagely beat my wife, Nana.”
The mob then targeted an adjacent apartment on the same property, where religious meetings are held. They broke in through a window, looted the premises and burned the religious literature from the apartment.
The priest-led mob went on a rampage through the city. They found a local Witness at his workplace and beat him. Witness passengers in a car were able to escape on foot as the mob damaged and looted the vehicle.
This is the second day of such attacks by the same four Orthodox priests with Avto Tshabadze in the lead. Yesterday, on March 5, they led a mob of about 20 men in an attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses meeting on private property. Four Witnesses were physically assaulted on that occasion.
Alerted to these attacks, the mayor and local police refused to intervene. Armiran Macharashvil, the local deputy police chief, and A. Tsutskiridze, the local prosecutor, threatened that there would be further attacks. Even though this and similar recent attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses were brought to the attention of the authorities, no one has been arrested for viciously assaulting members of this religious group.
On February 22, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not banned in Georgia and are entitled to the constitutional right to hold religious services and import their literature.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600