For Immediate Release
October 2, 2002
Attacks in republic of Georgia continue on heels of US Commission hearing
TBILISI, Georgia—Three new incidents of physical assaults on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the republic of Georgia were reported last week, on the heels of a US Commission hearing where such persecution was described as acts of “barbarity.”
The first of these attacks came a day after the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe held the hearing, “The Republic of Georgia: Democracy, Human Rights and Security.” Speaking on the last three years of vicious attacks against religious minorities, Co-Chairman of the Commission, Christopher H. Smith stated, “There can be no excuse for state toleration of such barbarity!”
The following describes the most recent events in this ongoing persecution:
On the afternoon of September 25, some 15 extremists led by Paata Bluashvili of the ultra-Orthodox “Jvari” organization in the city of Rustavi forcibly entered a private home where about 20 Jehovah’s Witnesses and their non-Witness guests were gathered for Bible study. Two of the Witnesses and one non-Witness visitor were physically assaulted.
The next day in the village of Napareuli a mob of masked men with firearms, burst into a private home where the meetings were being conducted. Those in attendance were assaulted, and the interiors of the homes were ransacked. Literature and personal belongings were destroyed or stolen. As reported by eyewitnesses, it was the leader of the attack, the village administrator Mr. Nodar Paradashvili, who beat one of the victims into unconsciousness. Both Bluashvili and Paradashvili have been identified by victims as leaders of previous assaults.
In a third incident, on September 29, a mob gathered outside the residence of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Digomi district of Tbilisi and refused to allow others to enter the premises where a meeting was to be held. The mob forcibly seized Bibles and Bible literature from the group, verbally abusing those arriving for the meeting and assaulting at least one person. In all three cases, police declined to intervene after learning that the incidents involved attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600
Video footage of mob attacks and photographs of injuries and acts of arson available to the media upon request.