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TV Probe Alleges Security Service Orchestrated Homophobic Pogroms

Homophobic Violence on July 5, 2021 Left Over 50 Media Workers Injured

Nine Georgian civil society organizations have said recent TV Pirveli investigation, alleging that the State Security Services (SSG) employees planned and executed homophobic pogroms on July 5, 2021, “prompts an even more dangerous and disturbing assumption that it may be the [SSG] standing behind the planning and management of that mass violence.”

“Tolerating mass violence against journalists/activist groups, demonstratively ineffective prevention and the investigation becomes more straightforward and understandable in the context where [Security Service] personnel may be directly involved in planning these processes,” civil society outfits noted.

The statement stressed that “the mass violence against media representatives and activist groups, and even more so the negative participation of the state in this process, creates a hefty sense of insecurity and distrust of state institutions in our society.”

The civil society outfits underlined that “the chain of events related to the July 5-6 incidents and the institutional setbacks of [Security Service] activities call into question the resilience of the security system as a whole and creates the abusive practice of political instrumentalization of the most crucial link for national security.”

“Of particular concern is that the agenda of the organizers of the violent rally is openly and undisguisedly linked to the Kremlin’s policies and support. The loyalty shown by the state towards such groups and their possible instrumentalization raises additional broader political suspicions.”

The Social Justice Center, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), The Human Rights Center (HRC), International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International-Georgia, Rights Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Democracy Research Institute (DRI), and Sapari co-signed the statement. 

TV Pirveli Investigation

Per government-critical TV Pirveli’s investigation, aired on June 11, the broadcaster retrieved 10 alleged screenshots of correspondence between security service operatives, purporting to show that the government was behind the homophobic violence against journalists and activists on July 5, 2021.

If authentic, the screenshots mean the nation’s chief domestic counter-intelligence agency acted against the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of assembly and press freedom among others.

Per the alleged correspondence, security service employees were instructed to organize and bring people a counter-protest to the pro-equality March on Dignity planned by Tbilisi Pride, gay rights group.

In one such screenshot, alleged operative Mikheil (Misha) Turabelidze is seen messaging colleagues on July 5 at 00:54 calling for “maximum mobilization” at central locations in Tbilisi including in Vake Park, Mziuri Park, and Marjanishvili Square, at 8:30 that morning.

The colleagues involved in the operation alongside Turabelidze were Mirian Khuroshvili, Dimitri Kapanadze, Tamaz Bregvadze, Gia Baramidze, Giorgi Kipshidze, and Tamar Zambakhidze.

According to the same correspondence, Turabelidze emphasized that the task must be completed and for the staff to take and send videos of the events.

In another screenshot, Turabelidze demanded that one person volunteer from the group to speak with the media and allege that the Shame Movement and Tbilisi Pride, activist groups behind the planned gay rally were the same group as the largest opposition party United National Movement.

In yet another message which was supposedly sent later in the day, Turabelidze encouraged his fellow employees to keep going because “exterminating [LGBT]” in Georgia will be their achievement to which other SSG employees seemingly rejoiced in response.

TV Pirveli also reported that SSG had wanted to organize similar violence during the screening of a film at Khidi Club in Tbilisi which had been organized as part of Pride Week but that the “operation failed because the assignment was received late and mobilization could not be done in time.”

Ministry of Interior Contacts TV Pirveli

TV Pirveli published a letter received from the Ministry of Internal Affairs yesterday, where the police asked the channel to inform them whether it possesses a hard copy or electronic copy of the information they broadcast, and where they are storing it.

The Ministry also requested that the company provide them with other information related to the July 5 events.

Nodar Meladze, the head of the news service at TV Pirveli and host of the show which published the investigation, said that the Ministry was trying to extend the time to allow for the perpetrators to “destroy the evidence.”

“All this gives the impression that they are not eager to start an investigation into the complicity of high-ranking officials in the bloodshed against journalists… They want to find out what other material we may have and what kind of journalistic investigation we are preparing.”

Civil Georgia approached the State Security Service to respond to the allegations but the agency refrained from commenting on the issue. Civil.ge is also awaiting a comment from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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