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May Student Movement Alleges Police Intimidation of Student Protesters

On March 18, the “May Student Movement” released a statement on the alleged government actions in response to the recent protests in Tbilisi. According to the statement, police entered a student dormitory in “Bagebi” and collected the personal data of students.

The movement claims that the government is using various methods to neutralize and intimidate the youth who participated in the March protests.

“The police regime has begun to act actively,” the statement reads. “Recently, they have been looking for different ways to neutralize the students taking part in the protests in the country. The police entered Bagebi’s dormitory and, according to the students, introduced themselves as Vake police officers and took their personal information. At the same time, they did not give the students any information as to why the personal data was being collected”.

In light of these events, the “May Student Movement” has called on Tbilisi State University and its professors to take a clear stance and respond to the incident. The movement is concerned that this fact is a direct message to the students that if they dare to fight in any way against the prevailing inequality in the state, the state police regime will respond to them.

Grigalashvili interview with Formula TV said the police action was not exceptional but occurs “systematically” and covered not only students but also other residents in the dorm. He explained such identity checks “happened in the past years, as a matter of routine”.

On March 17, the Georgian Ombudsman Levan Ioseliani, met with students involved in the rallies and stated that the Public Defender’s Office was monitoring the ongoing investigation against them. Earlier, the students had publicly appealed to the Georgian Ombudsman for protection against the expected persecution and repression by the government. The Ombudsman reiterated his readiness to protect all citizens who feel that their right to freedom of expression is being violated or who feel threatened by the government because of their political views.

The Ministry of Interior responded to the issue on 22 March, stating that aw enforcement officers entry at Bagebi student dormitory “had been planned” that the locals “did not express any kind of protest” during the visit. The Ministry of Interior called on “all individuals, youth movements, NGOs and political parties to refrain from spreading unverified information and deliberately discrediting the police for various interests”.

The students also said that they had been summoned to the Ministry of Education, an allegation that has not been confirmed by the Ministry. “In this regard, the students themselves expressed their desire to meet with the Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Nunu Mickevichi. Only then, at the request of the students, did the Deputy Minister express her willingness to meet with them” the Ministry of Education’s statement reads.

Notably, following the forced withdrawal of the bill, Prime Minister Garibashvili, in an interview with Imedi TV about the March 7-9 rallies in Tbilisi, made comments that were widely perceived as threatening, suggesting possible reprisals against students who took part in the rallies.

He insisted that many young people who took part in the rallies were being orchestrated by members of the “destructive, anarchist” movement in coordination with the United National Movement. “Let no one have the illusion that those young people who stood on the stage, and we know who they are, one by one, were all connected to the National Movement or its satellite organizations, be it ‘European Georgia’, ‘Girchi – More Freedom’, ‘Vashadze’s Party’ [Strategy Agmashenebeli] and others,” he said.

The information was updated on 22.03. 23 to include the statement by Georgian Ministry of Interior.

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