For Immediate Release
June 28, 2002
Arson follows in wake of action by Governor
GORI, Georgia—At about 2:00 a.m. today, arsonists attempted to burn down the site that Jehovah’s Witnesses use for their conventions in the Gori region. The residents of the home were awakened by a friendly neighbor and were able to extinguish the fire before it caused further damage. The arsonists quickly fled, leaving behind canisters and unused Molotov cocktails. The perimeter of the site had been doused with fuel.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been peacefully holding meetings at this location for the past five years without any problems with local residents and are therefore surprised to hear of this incident. “It is very disturbing,” said a local member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Last week, on June 16, the governor of our region, David Koblianidze, visited the convention site. Threats were made that any convention would be viewed as illegal. Now we have this act of violence.” This comes despite a recently issued decree from President Shevardnadze stipulating that the rights of religious minorities are to be protected.
This latest arson attempt comes exactly two years after a literature depot of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tbilisi was burned down by arsonists in the middle of the night. In a separate event on May 13, 2001, after renegade priest Mkalavishvili warned on live television of further attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses, arsonists set fire to a home where meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses were regularly held. The Shamoyan family of nine barely escaped death. In these cases of arson and in over 80 attacks against religious minorities, not one of the perpetrators has ever been arrested.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600
Video footage of previous attacks and photographs of injuries are available to the media upon request.