Fwd: violence against JWs, Zugdidi, Georgia

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Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2000 14:09:15 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: Fwd: violence against JWs, Zugdidi, Georgia

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: CIPDD <cipdd@access.sanet.ge>

Fwd: violence against JWs, Zugdidi, Georgia

Reply to: Tbilisi Office <A.Tungler@caucasus.net>
For immediate release September 8, 2000
Rampaging police force brings violent halt to religious convention in
"On Friday, September 8th, a troop of masked police wielding clubs
carved a path of destruction as 700 remaining delegates fled the site
of a convention of Jehovah's Witnesses," exclaimed Kakha Pitskheliani,
owner of the property where the attack took place. "They not only
torched the platform and the seating, they entered our family
residence and destroyed everything they could. Several delegates were
beaten and private property stolen.  It was heartbreaking to see the
look of terror on the faces of young children as the attackers
detonated cannon shells overhead."
The police invasion, including attacks on journalists, was reported by
Rustavi 2 television on the evening news of September 8th. According
to Genadi Gudadze, a convention speaker from Tbilisi, who was present
during the attack, the mayor of Zugdidi, military and police officials
had threatened the convention organizers that they would not allow the
convention to proceed. However, in spite of several requests, they
failed to provide any written confirmation of a law prohibiting the
proposed convention.
Mamuka Chabashvili, legal counsel for the Witnesses stated
emphatically, "The mayor of Zugdidi was advised that Article 25 of the
Georgian Constitution guarantees the right of all persons to hold a
public assembly without prior permission."  To quote Chabashvili, "Any
public official who attempts to disrupt a legal public assembly is in
violation of the Criminal Code and subject to prosecution."
Jehovah's Witnesses have been hosting religious conventions at the
same site in Zugdidi three or four times a year for the past several
years. These assemblies are noteworthy for the peaceful orderly
conduct of the families who attend for the purpose of Bible education.
The three day convention scheduled for September 8-10 in Zugdidi, was
organized for an attendance of around 2,000.  It was the last
convention in a series of 7 held in Georgia over the past few weeks.
It was the only one to be broken up.
"This latest violent attack on a peaceful religious minority
underscores the deterioration of law and order in Georgia," stated
Genadi Gudadze. "Radical elements and ill-informed local officials
flagrantly violate the Constitution and the law of Georgia, as well as
the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom, to
which Georgia is committed."
In a press statement dated September 5, 2000, the Delegation to the
EU-Georgia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, denounced as
"outrageous" the violent attacks on journalists, human rights
activists and Jehovah's Witnesses in a Tbilisi courtroom in August.
In a letter to President Shevardnadze dated September 6, Human Rights
Watch decried the wave of violence directed against Jehovah's
Witnesses in Georgia and called on the President to "immediately call
for an end to the attacks and to bring to justice those responsible
for them."
Contact in Georgia:  Arno Tungler, telephone +995 (32) 76-23-59
Or +995 (32) 76-23-58; fax +995 (32) 76-95-98

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