TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) thinks the Ministry of Internal Affairs is biased and unfair when protecting a police officer who is accused of physically abusing one of their lawyers.

According to GYLA, the head of Adjara police, Valerian Telia, hurled insults at three employees of GYLA and used violence against their driver on March 28 in Batumi.

The brawl broke out after a street incident when Telia and the GYLA vehicle failed to make way for each other at a Batumi crossroads. The police chief stopped his car and asked the GYLA people to do the same. A quarrel ensued, during which Telia cursed at the driver and tried to drag him into his car, tearing his clothes off, then threw a cigarette towards them, according to GYLA.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs rushed in to defend the policemen and even destroyed the video tape from the surveillance camera at the nearby building, the MIA claims unintentionally. However, another videotape survived. Furthermore, they accused Partenadze, the driver, of being drunk and violating traffic rules. He has been fined with GEL 200.

However, then it turned out that police chief didn’t have a driver’s license. Fining Partenadze and leaving Telia upunished is regarded by GYLA as unequal and unfair.

GYLA’s chair Kakha Kozhoridze says that such an outcome may be seen by other law enforcers as a green light for further violations. He criticizes the statement by Irakli Gharibashvili, Minister of Internal Affairs, who said that the incident has been exaggerated.

Gharibashvili responded to the damaged video footage and said that it’s not very important that the footage has been damaged, because the MIA will get alternative video files from another camera and release it immediately.

Several nongovernmental organizations made a joint statement and expressed suspicion that the video has been edited.

“The footage does not show the moments of physically abusing GYLA’s employee, it seems like intentional misleading of society,” the statement says. It is signed by ISFED, TIG, OSGF, IDFI, and others.

“MIA’s statement does not make any mention of Valerian Telia’s actions, which indisputably is even greater violence (and possibly a crime) than the actions indicated in the statement,” GYLA writes.

Kozhoridze said that although Partenadze, the driver, was indeed driving under a slight influence of alcohol and violated traffic rules, this may not justify physical or verbal abuse of citizens by representatives of the authorities and MIA focusing only on violations committed by GYLA is unfair.

Non-governmental organizations demand the suspension Telia’s authority.