Tbilisi has claimed that the Abkhaz authorities expelled a Georgian orthodox priest from the Georgian-populated Gali district of breakaway Abkhazia after he was banned from conducting service in the local church.
Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported on April 11 that the Georgian priest was not allowed to conduct service by the Sokhumi eparchy because of “preaching nationalistic ideas” among his parish in Gali.
“Father Pimen was insulted both verbally and physically. According to our information, the representatives of the Abkhaz de facto authorities participated in it,” Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration issues, said at a press conference on April 11. “This is an alarming fact, when despite our numerous calls that human rights are violated in the Gali district, now we have to deal with the fact when the rights of religious confession are violated as well.”
He also criticized the Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone for a failure to provide security there. “Of course we want it [the current peacekeeping operation] to be revised,” Iakobashvili added.
“This is a barbaric act when a priest is treated like this,” Davit Bakradze, the Georgian foreign minister said. “The fact that such violations are taking place in the Gali district once again confirms the validity of our concerns that the international structures acting in Gali today fail to perform their functions and fail to protect even elementary rights of the local population.”