Riots broke out after the beating and death of a TV cameraman during Gay Pride. The opposition accused the premier of being a murderer. According to the majority, ex-president Saakashvili fomented the protests. The Georgian Orthodox Church condemns the violence, but criticises the opposition and journalists.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Street clashes have broken out in Georgia following the death of TV operator Pirveli Lekso Laškarava, who was found dead in his flat in Tbilisi on July 11. A group of radical homophobes had beaten him up in the street on 5 July, while he was filming the local Gay Pride parade (see photo).
The cameraman was treated for facial fractures and then returned home where he allegedly (mysteriously) committed suicide. The police opened a file for incitement to suicide, after having arrested about 20 people on charges of assaulting Laškarava and Pirveli journalist Miranda Bagaturia. On 13 July, the cameraman's funeral took place, surrounded by his colleagues' cameras amidst two wings of a crowd.
The clashes even reached Parliament. Together with journalists from the anti-government media, on the day of the funeral, part of the opposition National Movement blocked the proceedings of the parliament for three hours, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Iraklij Garibašvili. The opponents called on all defenders of people's rights to join the protest actions, while the premier said he was 'defending the rights of the majority'.
Garibašvili further inflamed tempers by declaring his opposition to public marches by the LGBT community. He accused journalists of being in cahoots with exiled former president (in Ukraine) Mikhail Saakashvili, who allegedly fomented unrest with the sole aim of undermining the current government.
The Georgian Chief Executive reiterated that 'when 95 per cent of the population is opposed to LGBT propaganda marches and demonstration parades, we all have to submit to that'. He stressed that it is 'the opinion of the absolute majority of our population, and we as the elected power of the people are obliged to take it into account, and we will always take it into account. In Georgia, there will be no more situations in which a minority decides the fate of the majority.
Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani, who has just been appointed deputy premier, also spoke 'in defence of the majority'. She spoke about her vision for the future of Georgia, explaining who should have access to the Rustaveli Prospekt, the main street of the capital Tbilisi: 'We have to build a country where representatives of the LGBT community are no longer used for dirty political purposes. This aggression against the majority, according to which gay prides should not pass through Rustaveli Prospekt, must stop". She warned the opposition not to try to frighten the government by appealing to ambassadors from Europe and the West, because "in this way you play into Moscow's hands".
Other leaders of the Georgian Dream, the ruling party, also intervened in controversy with the opposition, even physically participating in the clashes in parliament. Security officials struggled to remove MPs from the occupied gallery and expelled several opposition members from the chamber. A leader of the National Movement, Tinatin Bokučava, said that 'we are facing a violent regime, which beats and kills journalists, and now uses force against MPs as well. The only purpose of our protest in the chamber was to obtain the resignation of the murderer Garibašvili".
The main opposition force has decided to suspend parliamentary activity unless the motion of no confidence in the government is put on the calendar and the procedure for a constitutional amendment leading to early elections in October is opened. Without these concessions, the National Movement will continue to support street protests.
The leader of the Georgian Dream, Iraklij Kobakhidze, called the opposition's claims "silly", declaring in turn that "the leader of the radical anti-Christian groups is actually Saakashvili". According to Kobakhidze, the former president "leads these processes from Kiev, where he controls the media and money that support the exaggerated minorities". He added that the protests are aimed at "pitting the state against the Church".
The leadership of the Georgian Orthodox Church condemns the violence, but does not intend to interfere in the diatribes, although it has been quite open in accusing the opposition and the press that supports them. In their homilies, some priests call for the use of force "for the homeland and for moral purity", like the well-known protoierej Spiridon Tskipurišvili, who also spoke before Parliament.