The opposition United National Movement (UNM) held yesterday a protest rally in front of the local council in Ozurgeti municipality of Guria Region, demanding from the authorities to hold accountable all those, who participated in the June 15 incident involving Besik Katamadze, a member of the municipality council (Sakrebulo) from UNM.
Besik Katamadze, one of the party’s four members in the 46-seat Sakrebulo, told local media, shortly after the incident in the Sakrebulo building, that he was physically assaulted by Georgian Dream members for expressing critical opinions against the ruling party in social networks. Katamadze, who sustained injuries to his head, was later briefly hospitalized.
The Interior Ministry launched investigation into the incident under article 126 of the criminal code of Georgia, involving “beating or other violence.” The police brought charges against Tariel Aroshidze, a member of the Ozurgeti Sakrebulo from the Georgian Dream party, but Ozurgeti District Court released him on bail.
UNM disputed the investigation, saying at least four more persons participated in the incident. The Georgian Dream, on its part, said in a statement on June 16 that it distanced from any forms of violence, but slammed UNM for staging a “provocation.”
Later, local UNM representatives accused Nestor Ramishvili, one of the Georgian Dream members, of offering Katamadze to physically assault those persons who participated in the incident in exchange for suspending the legal dispute. A video footage, apparently showing the conversation, emerged in the media as well.
Ramishvili confirmed the proposal, but denied UNM’s allegations that it was agreed with GD leadership in the region. The Deputy Chair of Ozurgeti Municipality, Giorgi Ghurjumelidze, said Ramishvili, who works in the regional administration, could have acted intentionally in favor of UNM. The police said that it would inquire into the matter.
The UNM organized a small-scale protest rally in front of the Ozurgeti Sakrebulo building on June 18 with participation of few hundred local residents and party leadership, including MP Nika Melia. The situation escalated after UNM members and supporters tried to enter the administrative building to launch a hunger strike in front of the Sakrebulo chair’s office.
Following a brief confrontation with police officers, the organizers decided to end the rally, giving local government time till Friday to meet their demands. Three UNM lawmakers, including Besik Katamadze, were later allowed to enter the building and launch a hunger strike in front of the Sakrebulo chair’s office.
A group of eight rights watchdogs issued a statement on June 19, calling on the authorities to conduct a timely and effective investigation and identify all perpetrators in the incident. “We urge the law enforcement authorities to have a strict policy on violence against political opponents and conduct timely and complete investigation of every incident,” the statement reads.