Another Activist Battered as Parliament Speaker Talks of ‘Terror Campaign’ Against MPs

In yet another episode of the targeted campaign of repression against government critics, on June 11 another activist, Zuka Berdzenishvili, former member of the “Shame” movement and son of Davit Berdzenishvili, one of the leaders of the opposition Republican Party, was severely beaten by three people near his home.

The incident occurred about an hour after Shalva Papuashvili, the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, reacted in a Facebook post to recent cases of confrontation between citizens and majority MPs who voted in favor of the Foreign Agents law, accusing citizens who express their disappointment with the MPs when encountering them in public places of “politically motivated terror”. Papuashvili wrote: “It is clear that these so-called “outraged citizens” scenes staged for the media are in fact an organized and politically motivated terror campaign waged in the name of Europe. By turning a blind eye to the political extremism of the organizations they fund, donors are normalizing terror.”

Zuka Berdzenishvili was one of the people named in Papuashvili’s post. In particular, he was accused by the Parliament Speaker of making threatening and offensive telephone calls to MPs.

Following Papuashvili’s post, the men ambushed Berdzenishvili near his home, sneaking up behind him and brutally beating him. “I promise I’ll shoot you in the head,” one of the attackers allegedly shouted at Berdzenishvili as he was being beaten.

Berdzenishvili was soon taken to the hospital. He underwent surgery on his broken nose.

Berdzenishvili’s family links the attack to Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili’s post. “He [Papuashvili] mentioned Zuka by name this morning, and then they let the thugs loose on him,” Davit Berdzenishvili wrote.

The Parliament Speaker later, during the Parliamentary session, denied that he has anything to do with the incident, and instead again accused the civil society representatives of “terror”. He said: “”Of course we will expose anyone involved in terror” referring to recent cases in which the citizens verbally confront GD and People’s Power MPs when they run into them in public, often calling them “slaves” and “traitors” and accusing them of undermining democracy in Georgia and derailing the country from its Euro-Atlantic path.

In May, as the infamous foreign agents law was being debated in Parliament against the backdrop of massive protests, Shalva Papuashvili announced that the GD’s Political Council planned to create a database containing information on opponents, or as he put it on anyone “involved in violence, blackmail, threats and other illegal actions” or “who publicly supports these actions.”

Over the past two months, dozens of government critics, civil society members, activists, and opposition politicians have been regularly attacked and intimidated by government-paid “titushky,” and cases of repression are reported daily as the October elections approach.

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


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