mikheil saakashvili 2013-05-22

President Mikheil Saakashvili. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili says that church prayer isn’t an excuse for anyone to violate the law.

The PM on Tuesday met with a club of experts and after the meeting he commented on the May 17 events, when Orthodox Christians and clerics disrupted a rally by LGBT activists.

Ivanishvili promised that the situation ‘will be put in order’ before the next May 17 and much earlier.

“What happened was a shame. This wasn’t an expression of Georgian character or Christian acts. We should condemn what happened,” he said, adding that what the police did was adequate, considering that they at least managed to bring the LGBT activist away from Freedom Square.

“Church prayer isn’t an excuse for anyone to break the law, commit crime or encourage violence,” he added.

The PM said everyone who are guilty will be punished, no matter if they are civilian or cleric.

Ivanishvili noted that the Minister of Internal Affairs, who is currently abroad, suspects that the counter-rally was managed and financed from outside.

“I share his position on the level of suspicion,” he said, adding that questions may also be to the other side, but there will be adequate answers from the government.

President Mikheil Saakashvili during a TV appearance Tuesday questioned how wise it was to hold a rally close to the place where there was a funeral ceremony for soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

A funeral service for three ISAF soldiers was held at Kashueti Church on Rustaveli Avenue the day before the violent clashes.

The president said that despite this, the people who were violent on May 17 should be punished.

“Tomorrow they may come to someone’s home and may not like the haircut, or looks, or other feature. There is a group in society who has a violent purpose, regardless of who is the target of violence.”

The same day on Tuesday, Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili appealed to the chief prosecutor, asking that the investigation should continue, even though four persons have been detained.

The ombudsman expressed concern about individual cases of violence against participants of May 17 rally and LGBT activists, and a dangerous trend with attacks motivated by differing views or lifestyle.

Representatives of the Public Defender’s Office have interviewed LGBT activists and their supporters who were present on May 17 and the following days, who speak of physical and verbal abuse.

“Interviewees claim that since May 17 they see an increase in threats in the streets and on municipal transport or in other public places. Some even changed the place they live.”

Patrick Ventrell, Acting Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Ddepartment, said that the US condemns the May 17 attacks.

“Such acts of intolerance have no place in democratic societies. The United States places great importance on the protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender persons around the world,” he said on Tuesday.

The US-based human rights organization Freedom House called for the attackers to be held to account.