Senior Georgian Dream lawmaker Shalva Papuashvili, who also serves as the ruling party’s PR secretary, has come under fire for seemingly grabbing and taking away opposition United National Movement MP, Tina Bokuchava during a standoff between the GD and opposition legislators over the Interior Minister’s address at the Parliament on July 18.
Media footage showed Education and Science Committee Chair, MP Papuashvili grabbing, picking up and taking his female colleague away as the latter was approaching the Speaker’s tribune during Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri’s hearing at the Parliament, over unchecked July 5 homophobic pogroms.
Tensions flared at the legislature as the opposition lawmakers interrupted Minister Gomelauri’s speech in protest, holding up photos depicting TV Pirveli cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava, who died six days after being assaulted by far-right homophobic mob on July 5. The opposition legislators demanded the resignation of Minister Gomelauri, as well as Prime Minister Garibashvili over the controversial developments.
MP Papuashvili accused of violence, harassment
MP Bokuchava, delivering scathing remarks after the incident, stressed: “The Georgian Dream’s trademark, the only thing that allows them to retain power, is violence. They use it against MPs, journalists, cameramen.” The United National Movement lawmakers said they would appeal to the Parliamentary Ethics Council over MP Papuashvili’s conduct.
MP Ana Natsvlishvili of Lelo for Georgia party and independent lawmaker Tamar Kordzaia demanded on July 19 from the Parliament’s Ethics and Gender Equality Councils to assess MP Papuashvili’s actions. MP Natsvlishvili said MP Papuashvili’s action “was not normal, and leaving unaddressed would mean the Parliament is normalizing such behavior.
Deputy Public Defender Ekaterine Skhiladze dubbed MP Papuashvili’s actions as “unimaginable arrogance,” slamming the lawmaker for “allowing himself to take away Tina Bokuchava using violence.”
Kety Abashidze, a board member at Georgian Young Lawyers Association, local CSO, denounced on July 18 the incident as “misogyny and harassment that has no place at the Parliament and sets a dangerous example for all other women and girls in Georgia.”
“It is so disrespectful, degrading,” said Mariam Kvaratskhelia, a Tbilisi Pride activist. “What women in politics and in Parliament have to go through is insane!”
Baia Pataraia, a key women’s rights activist in Georgia also decried the development.
MP Papuashvili responds, denies violence
MP Papuashvili, offered MP Bokuchava regrets on July 18 but denied using any violence against her. “What violence? Violence was what the country had to watch for years thanks to the United National Movement,” he retorted, referring to the previous ruling party’s administration.
Coming to fellow party colleague’s defense, GD lawmaker Guram Macharashvili said on July 19 that accusations of violence leveled at MP Papuashvili are “absurd.” He argued – in a way that was dubbed as “sexist” in Georgian media – that “Papuashvili managed to neutralize Bokuchava’s hysteria.” MP Macharashvili argued it was a “hysterical” attempt by MP Bokuchava that violated the parliamentary Code of Ethics.
Tensions run high at the Parliament
The heated parliamentary hearing on July 18 was also marked by journalists hanging protest banners in the plenary hall demanding the perpetrators of July 5 violence to be punished, and that the Government “must take responsibility” for the unchecked violence.
Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava subsequently announced the hearing would be canceled, after the governing party’s call for taking down the protest banners was rejected.
Tensions have been running high since the death of Aleksandre Lashkarava, TV Pirveli cameraman, which immediately spurred public outrage and protest, exacerbated by the Interior Ministry suggesting on the same day that the journalist could have died of narcotics overdose.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has rejected the calls for resignation by the opposition, media representatives and civic activists.
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