Equality Movement, a local LGBT rights organization, said that its activists can no longer come to their office for fear of their neighbors.
Levan Berianidze, executive director of Equality Movement told Civil.ge on Wednesday that they have moved to Egnate Ninoshvili Street in Tbilisi in February 2018, where some members of the neighboring family often made homophobic and aggressive remarks, trying to provoke a conflict.
Berianidze also said that on September 28, at about 10pm, the activists were conversing in the backyard, when one of these neighbors has rushed out hurling insults. To avoid escalation, the employees, according to Berianidze, have left the backyard and decided to leave. But as they were locking the doors, several of their neighbors have reportedly assaulted them, “trying to beat them and grabbing one of them by the throat.” Berianidze said one of the neighbors had pulled out a firearm, but was restrained by another.
Berianidze said that police have launched investigation on charges of violence, hoping for a thorough and unbiased inquest, but noting that so far the police did not detain any of the assailants, and neither have they given any assurances of security to the activists.
He noted that about 17 activists who work at this office, no longer feel safe. “We have no guarantees that [the neighbors] won’t burst into the office again or ambush and beat our employees,” Berianidze added.
In a statement released on September 29, the Interior Ministry said that investigation into this case has been launched for offenses of violence, prosecutable under the Article 126 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, “violence”. The Police account of the events of September 28, states that a “verbal altercation” started between several activists of the Equality Movement and a woman living in the same neighborhood, who complained about them being loud. Subsequently, the altercation grew into a confrontation between the activists and the woman’s relative. The Police pointed out, that the woman’s relative was hospitalized following that confrontation, while not giving out the details.
A group of fourteen civil society organizations released a joint statement on October 2 slamming police for what they termed an “indifferent attitude”. According to the statement, the police see the the incident as a scuffle between two sides, where “aggressors and victims are portrayed as co-equal sides.”
“Making such statements by the Ministry during the opening days of the investigation, without proper examination, substantially reduces trust towards the ongoing investigation,” the statement reads. The group called on the law enforcement agencies to ensure timely and effective investigation into the case and to implement “adequate preventive” measures for the protection of activists.