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Several Detained, As Tbilisi City Hall Removes Protest Tents from Parliament Area  

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Police have reportedly detained a total of 9 persons in the early hours of December 31, as civic activists and opposition protested City Hall’s decision to remove protest tents from outside the Georgian Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare.

Two known civic activists, Nodar Rukhadze and Zuka Berdzenishvili, the son of Republican Party leader Davit Berdzenishvili are reportedly among the detained.

Tbilisi City Hall’s Tbilservice group, an entity run by the Tbilisi municipality to provide waste management services to the capital city, removed protest-tents owned by Malkhaz Machalikashvili and family of priest Giorgi Mamaladze, among others, in front of the Parliament to erect kid-friendly attractions, Christmas market stalls and other New Year decorations in there in the early hours of December 31.

Georgian media reported based on Interior Ministry that the detentions were taken under articles 166 (minor hooliganism) and 173 (resistance to the lawful demands of the law-enforcement officers) of the Administrative Offenses Code of Georgia.

Civic activists of “It’s a shame” movement, as well as opposition politicians of United National Movement, European Georgia, Lelo for Georgia, Republican Party and others also protested outside the Parliament, condemning City Hall’s decision.

“I beg you not to bring your children outside the Parliament where I have been protesting for the third New Year’s Eve with the demand from them [authorities] to tell me who killed Temirlan [my son]… There is no place for celebrations outside the Parliament,” Malkhaz Machalikashvili, father of terror-related case suspect who was shot during the State Security Service operation on December 26, 2017 and succumbed to his injuries two weeks later, wrote on his Facebook page.

Tbilisi City Hall told Georgian Media that they notified protesters about their intention to arrange kid-friendly attractions and Christmas market in front of Parliament for New Year’s in advance.

Tbilisi City Hall requested Machalikashvili, who then held several-person lie-in in front of the parliament building together with Zaza Saralidze, father of one of the teenagers murdered in Tbilisi in December 2017 in Khorava street murder case, to vacate the premises in November 2018 as well, citing the need to start works for installing Christmas decorations.

Following civic protest in support of Machalikashvili and Saralidze, as well as court ruling of December 3, 2018, however, Machalikashvili has kept his protest-tent outside Georgian legislative building ever since.

18-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili, native of Pankisi gorge of Georgia’s Akhmeta Municipality, was shot in the head during his detention in December 2017. According to the State Security of Georgia (SSG), he attempted to resist the security forces and tried to detonate a hand grenade, to which the SSG operatives responded with “proportional force.” Machalikashvili’s family denies this and claims he was asleep when officers entered his room and opened fire.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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