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An undercover officer purchasing club drugs from one of the alleged suspects. Photo: Screengrab from police tape

Drug Trade Suspects Arrested Well Before Police Operation, Public Defender Says

The drug trade suspects arrested in a double operation in Tbilisi’s Bassiani and Café Gallery clubs were apprehended by the authorities outside club premises and well before the police operation, Public Defender Nino Lomjaria told journalists on May 12, citing suspects’ personal accounts.

“We have met all the detainees suspected of drugs sale, and they informed us that they were apprehended not during the police operation in the clubs, but several hours before, and in principle, this was also confirmed by the Interior Ministry, as they had the covert surveillance videos on alleged sale of drugs well before the operation,” she said.

Lomjaria also spoke on the detention of protesters in the early hours of May 12, hailing the police’s “overall restraint,” but questioning “the reasonableness and proportionality” of some of the arrests.

“Around 60 protesters were arrested, and in many of these instances arrests were not necessary and proportionate … The police has to act in extreme restraint and detain only when there is a violation, and not when it considers that someone’s detention might de-escalate the situation,” she added.

Interior Ministry: Dealers had close ties with clubs

In a statement released earlier on May 12, the Interior Ministry said the detainees were “systematically selling drugs in clubs, including in Bassiani and Café Gallery.” “Since multiple facts of sale of drugs were documented in the clubs, there was a reasonable ground [to suspect] that the drug dealers had close ties with these clubs,” the Ministry said.

It also noted that one of the suspects, “who worked for the club security,” was apprehended in the club with “large amount of narcotic substances” that he allegedly intended to sell. It then stressed police officers entered Bassiani and Café Gallery at around 1 am yesterday, “exactly when, based on our information, sale of heavy and synthetic drugs was planned.”

Also on Saturday, the Interior Ministry released a compilation of secretly-recorded footages, allegedly depicting the drug trade suspects. The videos, filmed by undercover officers at various locations in Tbilisi, including at Bassiani and Café Gallery, shows around a dozen episodes of alleged sale of club drugs, apparently well before the May 12 drug raids.

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