Despite police opposition, a group of civic activists have struck tents in front of the Parliament building in Tbilisi in solidarity with Zaza Saralidze, father of one of the teenagers murdered in Tbilisi in December 2017 in Khorava street murder case, and Malkhaz Machalikashvili, father of terror-related case suspect who was shot during the State Security Service (SSS) operation on December 26 last year and succumbed to his injuries two weeks later.
The activists have called for solidarity action after on November 9, Tbilisi municipality has notified Saralidze and Machalikashvili, who currently conduct a several-person lie-in in front of the parliament building, to vacate the premises, justifying their request by the need to start works for installing Christmas decorations.
On the same day, on November 9, the Public Defender of Georgia, made a special statement saying the municipality’s request “went beyond the provisions of the law”. She called on the law enforcement agencies and the municipality to refrain from restricting the freedom of assembly with arguments that are “artificial and not in keeping with the law” .
This has followed on an incident on October 26, which saw Saralidze arrested and tried for resisting a police officer, who was preventing him from striking a tent to protect himself against the elements.
Georgia’s human rights watchdogs have emphatically protested the authorities preventing the protesters from installing the tents, arguing that this was a protected right under the current legislation.
Six human rights watchdogs, including the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Organisation “Sapari”, Transparency International Georgia, “Article 42”, and ISFED have supported tonight’s protest. Their statement reads: “we, as well as the Public Defender of Georgia, have clearly stated several times, that the Ministry of Interior preventing the installation of temporary shelters (tents) represents a clear violation of the Constitutional right to the freedom of peaceful assembly,”
The latest media reports say, Saralidze, whose health has been fragile following a hunger-strike, has collapsed during the scuffle with the police tonight and was hospitalized. Other protesters pledge to stay on.
Civil.ge is following the developments.