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PDO: Student Evicted from Church-run University Dorm over Orphanage Testimony

The Public Defender’s Office said on June 9 that 18-year-old Luka Khachidze, a former ward of the Orthodox Church-run Ninotsminda Orphanage, was allegedly evicted from the dormitory of St. Tbel Abuseridze University, a church-run institution in mountainous western Adjara region, after he gave testimony to police on alleged violent incidents that occurred at the orphanage during his stay.

The news comes amid continued controversy around the church-run orphanage, that faces accusations over physical and psychological violence against minors.

The Public Defender’s Office said in cooperation with relevant agencies the 18-year-old student, was “temporarily placed in a safe environment,” and that it will monitor the provision of long-term housing for Khachidze, who had no shelter besides the dorm. Public Defender Nino Lomjaria stated her office already started examining the alleged discrimination against the former beneficiary of the Ninotsminda Orphanage.

Khachidze himself told media that at the church-run university he was told to pack his bag and go.

Lawyer of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Edisher Karchava dubbed the 18-year-old’s statement as “gossip” and “false.”

Civil.ge tried to reach out to the Orthodox Church-run university without success. Civil.ge also reached out to the Ministry of Education and awaits a comment on the development.

Bishop, University Rector Responds

In a video address, Bishop Spiridon (Gocha) Abuladze, who runs both the Ninotsminda Orphanage and the university, rebuffed reports that “the freshman was expelled from the university,” but it was not immediately clear whether this also implies denying reports about Khachidze’s dorm eviction.

Noting that the church and its orphanage “sheltered” and “gave everything” to Khachidze since his infancy, the Bishop said he was “astonished” by the youngster’s “mindset change,” and pointed accusatory fingers at civil society organizations and the Public Defender. “The country must stand up to getting such a generation.”

The Bishop then claimed by removing the kids from the orphanage, CSOs and Public Defender are attempting to eradicate” the “Georgian genes” and “Georgian mentality” from the ethnic Armenian majority town of Ninotsminda.

St. Tbel Abuseridze University is run by Bishop Spiridon Abuladze, who also runs the Ninotsminda Orphanage. The church-run foster home came into the spotlight after representatives of the Public Defender’s Office were twice denied a monitoring visit, triggering public outrage and an emergency temporary measure from the  UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Following the weeks-long controversy, the Tbilisi City Court ruled to remove children with disabilities from the Ninotsminda orphanage – a decision the Orthodox Church plans to appeal. 25 minors, including seven with disabilities, overall have been removed from the foster home to date, according to the Agency for State Care. The Agency also said it continues to monitor the remaining 28 beneficiaries round the clock.

Read more on the Church-run Ninotsminda Orphanage controversy below:

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

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