The Ministry of Interior of Georgia said in the early minutes of April 14 that police detained six persons in village Gumati, near western Georgian city of Kutaisi, at the rally against the construction of nearby Namakhvani Hydropower Plant. The arrests came after the police and protesters skirmished near the ENKA office late on April 13.
The police said the six persons were detained under Article 173 of the Administrative Offences Code of Georgia, involving non-compliance with the demands of law enforcement officers – a violation punished by a fine from GEL 250 to 2,000 (USD 75 to 585) or administrative imprisonment of up to 15 days. The Ministry said the protest participants blocked the road, aiming to restrict the movement of vehicles of ENKA, the company behind the controversial HPP construction.
Live video from the incident shows the police arresting (or at least attempting to) one of the protesters only after using swearing words against Economy Minister Natia Turnava, whose resignation has been one of the demands of Namakhvani HPP opponents.
Varlam Goletiani, a local protest leader accused the police of using force and injuring the protesters. Marita Museliani, another activist leader against the powerplant project, on her part, accused the law enforcement officers of using “disproportionate force,” adding that “there was no need for the police to abuse their powers to maintain order.”
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The village of Gumati, located at the southern entry of Rioni River valley where the Namakhvani HPP construction is carried out, has been the new center of the protest since April 11, when police dismantled protesters’ tents and forced them out of Namakhvani village. The police cited the flooding alert of the Rioni river behind the decision to remove the tents, which served as the major protest site for 170 days. Activists disagreed with the flooding alert reports, accusing the police of infringing their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and of attempts to squash their protest.
Police have set up a checkpoint in Gumati village and have been restricting access to the Rioni valley, including the HPP construction site and several other villages, since April 3. The restriction came after Merab Lominadze, ENKA’s new Georgian director arrived with the heavy police backing in Namakhvani to resume the groundworks.
- April 11-12: Tensions Mount as Police Dismantle Protest Tents in Namakhvani
- April 3-4: Tensions at Namakhvani HPP Site as Works Resume with Police Backing
- March 14: Massive Anti-Namakhvani HPP Protest in Kutaisi Demands Economy Minister Resignation
- March 12: Namakhvani Dam, Reservoir to Undergo Additional Safety Checks, Economy Minister Says
- March 4: PM Says Georgia Needs New Hydropower Plants
- February 28: Massive Rally Held in Kutaisi Against Namakhvani HPP