Fourteen people were detained earlier this year during clashes in Mokhe. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia’s Public Defender is considering checking the progress of a new commission tasked with studying a conflict around a mosque in Mokhe, a village in southern Georgia.

Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili says he thinks people’s trust in the commission may increase if he gets involved as an observer.

His office on Monday sent a request about this issue to the State Religious Agency, to which the commission is subordinate.

“We will be pleased if the ombudsman gets involved not only as an observer, but also actively participate in reviewing this issue,” Zaza Vashakmadze, head of the State Religious Agency, told DF Watch.

Confrontation between the Muslims and Orthodox population of Mokhe started October 18, 2014.

Muslims demanded to transfer the building to them, but the local municipality claimed that the building had status as culture house and they should have start rehabilitation work there.

Fourteen people were detained for resisting police and hooliganism. Three were released unpunished, the rest were fined 250 lari each.

Local Muslims protested the whole week, also by not letting their children go to school in six villages.

Muslims reminded the government about a promise they were given before the local election in June, 2014, that they would receive the building, but the promise wasn’t fulfilled.

In parallel to this, Orthodox clerics also demanded to hand the building over to the Patriarchate. They said that there once was a church there, but it was destroyed, and that the place had never been the site of a mosque.

One more problem is that almost all mosques in Georgia are not registered as prayer houses, but have status as culture house or something else. This also includes the mosque in Mokhe, which officially belongs to the local government.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said that any kind of violence and confrontation is unacceptable, but also that Mokhe already has a mosque and local Muslims do not have problems praying.

Several human rights organizations in Georgia consider the mosque issue in Mokhe a form of persecution of the Muslim community. They underline that this has become systematic.

A commission to handle the Mokhe conflict was set up under the State Religious Agency and includes representatives of the Culture Ministry, eleven representatives from Muslim and Orthodox community. The commission will hold its first session on December 27, 2014.