Series of attacks on government critics in Georgia
Government critics in Georgia, including an opposition leader, a youth camp, and student protesters, have been attacked, apparently by supporters of the ruling Georgian Dream party, in a series of violent incidents over the weekend, reported OC Media.
On June 17, students attempting to protest a lecture by Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze at the Tbilisi State University (TSU) were attacked by party supporters. Georgian Dream’s youth wing members are reported to have taken part in the attack, which left at least one student hospitalised. The confrontation at TSU took place as several students attempted to unfurl protest banners over a stairwell in the university as the chair of Georgian Dream, Irakli Kobakhidze, was due to hold a lecture. They were prevented from doing so by his security detail.
Footage from the university shows a group of young men then attacking the students on the stairs. According to the pro-opposition TV channel Mtavari, the young men who attacked the student protesters on Saturday emerged from the lecture hall where Kobakhidze was due to speak to confront them. The channel said this included members of the ruling Georgian Dream youth wing. Local media reported that several people fell down the stairs during the violence, with some requiring medical care.
In a separate incident earlier on the same day, Zurab Japaridze, who leads the libertarian opposition party Girchi — More Freedom, was attacked in Gori. A local resident of Gori said in his social media post later during the day he was responsible for assaulting the party leader, telling his followers the politician had been “beaten for perverting our children, for insulting the [Catholicos Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church] and the Church”.
The Georgian Interior Ministry on Saturday said it had launched an investigation into an assault. Public Defender Levan Ioseliani condemned the attack on Japaridze on Saturday and noted his office would study the incident.
Japaridze was travelling to lecture at a youth camp, which was attacked later that day too. A violent mob – reportedly 50-60 men – threw stones, red paint, and shouted insults at the hotel in Borjomi where a youth summer camp was taking place. According to the camp organisers, it took police almost an hour to arrive at the scene. According to the latest information, the camp is suspended, and the participants have reportedly been driven to the safety of their homes.
The camp, titled Liberal Education Academy, is bringing together 15-16-year-old students and is held by the Insitute for Individual Liberty (IFIL), an activist civil society group. Japaridze is one of the more visible leaders of the liberal opposition.
As Civil.ge reminded, liberal-minded youth movements Franklin Club, the Institute for Individual Liberty, Shame Movement, and Droa! were targeted by the ruling party and its affiliated media with incendiary rhetoric as the authorities accused them of inciting violence during the protest rallies in March. The ruling party also lashed out at Georgia’s European partners for funding these outlets. Japaridze was also personally targeted by such attacks.