TBILISI, DFWatch–Some of the top people in President Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement party Friday clashed with a crowd mostly consisting of protesters who were angry about the treatment of political prisoners.
Over a hundred political prisoners were recently released as part of a mass amnesty, some of whom took part in Friday evening’s demonstration in front of the entrance to the National Library, where the president was to hold the annual televised state of the nation address.
The protesters were blocking the entrance, some holding brooms, the symbol of the prisoners abuse scandal in September, 2012. Violence started when supporters of the president, urged on by Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, tried to force their way through the antagonistic crowd blocking the entrance, in order to get inside and listen to the speech.
Interior Minister Irakli Gharibashvili Friday said that the government had reasonable suspicion that there would be a provocation at the National Library. He said they had prepared special corridors for the National Movement members to enter the library.
But the National Movement activists rejected that option and instead marched directly toward the entrance, where an antagonistic crowd was blocking their way.
Gharibashvili said he called Giga Bokeria, Secretary of the Security Council, and told him that a special corridor would be organized for them at the entrance to the library.
The minister said they will show footage of minority members avoiding to go through corridors.
“They went towards people. This was preliminary organized. We do not distinguish between people according to their political views. You can see the footage – at those places where a mass of people were crowding, no police could establish order,” he said.
The minister remarked that all will be responsible, both the initiators of the provocation and the people who committed the violence.
The minister himself came to the library and appealed for protesters to avoid violence and to stop rallying.
Bokeria said on the evening show on the TV channel Rustavi 2 that he called Gharibashvili a few hours before the incident, as it was clear that situation was leading to violence.
“He promised that no violence would take place and the police would keep the order, there would be a corridor to the building,” he said, adding that when they moved to the library “what happened happened.”
Speaker of Parliament Davit Usupashvili Friday said those incidents was a performance organized by the president, but he shares the responsibility for avoiding such violence.
He said even though the parliamentary majority postponed the president’s annual speech in parliament, it didn’t prohibit him from holding the speech altogether.
“But he could say what he wanted to people, from where he is speaking now, from the president’s palace, but he picked the place in an open space, where it would have been hard to provide safety, as there is too much dissatisfaction in Georgia.
The Speaker of Parliament accused Ugulava of provoking today’s events.
“I saw the footage of Chiora Taktakishvili bleeding. This is completely unacceptable,” he said adding that he welcomes the statement of the interior minister, that all who raised their hands against the member of parliament should be punished.
Vano Merabishvili, Secretary General of the National Movement, said in the evening that it is unclear how Gigi Ugulava could organize a provocation against himself.
“This once again indicates how puzzled and scared the current government representatives are,” he said on the TV channel Imedi.
Richard Norland, US Ambassador to Georgia, condemned the violence.
“There is no excuse for using violence, for punching parliamentarians as they go in to hear a speech by the president,” Norland said.
“This is a fast moving situation,” he added.