TBILISI, DFWatch–Police in Georgia detained six opposition activists on Monday, as supporters of the National Movement rallied outside Tbilisi City Hall to demand an immediate halt in the handover of two prime land plots to a company owned by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
The city assembly voted Friday to sell the two pieces of land for a symbolic price of one lari. Before the vote there were outbursts of dissent among the opposition council members which prompted police and security guards to strong-arm the dissenters out of the session hall before the vote could go ahead.
Friday’s vote was about handing two land plots at lucrative locations in central Tbilisi to former PM Ivanishvili’s company, properties that are 1,900 and 4,700 square meters in size, respectively, and will be used to build a large car park and a recreational complex on a hilltop next to the botanical guarden.
The UNM members gathered at the Tbilisi City Hall on Monday afternoon demanding that Mayor Davit Narmania halt the handover until after the local elections on October 21. However, after they got no response from City Hall, they attempted to break in. During the physical confrontation that ensued, the police detained six UNM activists.
According to UNM mayoral candidate Zaal Udumashvili, several activists were beaten by police and also unidentified men in plain clothes who he believes were members of State Security Service, SUS.
“The rally […] was dispersed by using violent methods. Maybe 2,000 people have been abused today but they can’t abuse the whole of Tbilisi. We did not oppose the policemen, they were fulfilling their duty, but illegal duty,” Zaal Udumashvili said.
Later, the Ministry of Internal Affairs released a statement claiming that the rally was unsanctioned, thus illegal, and that the demonstrators were breaking the law by blocking the street.
“Representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs acted in full compliance with the requirements of the law, repeatedly called the violators to preserve order and requested to clear the road; however, the protesters did not obey a lawful request and offered resistance to the police,” the police statement reads.
The UNM denies the accusations about unlawfully breaking in, stating that only four of its members, all of them either MPs or members of the City Council, tried to enter the City Hall to negotiate with council officials. The current legislation allows MPs and members of the City Council to enter into all public offices in Tbilisi, they claim.