Zurab Khmelidze, a police detective from western Vani municipality police, has accused the government of restricting the freedom of movement of protesters against the controversial Namakhvani Hydropower Plant, expressed solidarity with the protest leaders, and announced his resignation.
In the interview with Mtavari Arkhi TV aired on June 1, Khmelidze said by restricting protesters’ freedom of movement “in a discriminatory manner,” he was tasked to follow “illegal orders” and contributed to “dividing the Rioni Valley into two.” Police have since mid-April erected metal barriers in Gumati village – the southern entry to the Rioni River valley where the Namakhvani HPP is set to be built – preventing the protesters from entering the village of Namakhvani, where their initial protests were held.
Khmelidze said that many police officers share his opinion, “many of them want to leave the system, but cannot do it because their families are behind them.”
Recalling Police Day celebrations on May 31, attended by President Salome Zurbaishvili, PM Irakli Garibashvili, and Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri, Khmelidze claimed “these persons” made police “dishonored” and “hated by people.”
The former police officer’s accusations have triggered mixed reactions among the ruling Georgian Dream party and opposition politicians.
“Hundreds of people are quitting the [police] system daily for various reasons,” Georgian Dream MP Beka Davituliani said, suggesting that the police officer might have quit because of his support towards Namakhvani protests.
Nika Oboladze of the United National Movement asserted that “police officers already understand that they cannot constantly fulfill unlawful orders. They want to stay on the side of the truth and victory.”
MP Ana Natsvlishvili of Lelo for Georgia party noted that policemen no longer want to serve the system that gives them “unlawful orders.”
Akaki Bobokhidze of European Georgia criticized police for “unconstitutional orders.”
Civil.ge has reached out to the Interior Ministry, but the latter has yet to respond to the former policeman’s accusations.
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