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The mayor of Marneuli, in southern Georgia, and an MP have been charged with inhumane and degrading treatment and assault respectively. Mayor Temur Abazov and MP Azer Suleimanov were charged on Wednesday after videos were posted on Facebook appearing to show a man being forced to wipe his own urine on his face and apologise for insulting ruling party officials.
Before his arrest, Abazov, from the ruling Georgian Dream Party, insisted he had nothing to do with the the victim and had not seen the video. Suleimanov, an MP from the opposition United National Movement Party (UNM), also denies charges.
The incident occured after a video showing the victim attending a demonstration in front of Tbilisi’s Parliament building in support of Zaza Saralidze, the father of one of two teenagers killed outside a school in the Khorava Street murders was posted on Facebook.
[Read more about Khorava Street Murder and following demonstrations on OC Media: Protest leaders detained in Georgia]
‘Fuck 41, do not vote for 41, only 5, we should bring back 5’, the man is heard saying at the rally. Forty-one is the election number of Georgian Dream, while five is the number for the UNM. Later in the video, he insults Mayor Abazov, Georgian Dream’s leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, and their wives.
Another video was later posted on Facebook showing the same man apologising to members of Georgian Dream. In the video, the man is seen speaking into his phone and being urged to apologise to Georgian Dream. A separate video shows him holding a cup full of what he describes as urine.
‘What are you going to do with that piss? You have no dignity’, a man is heard telling him, after which the victim rubs the liquid on his face.
Georgian Investigative outlet Studio Monitori, who broke the story, reported that there were allegations the man was pressured by Abazov and other local Georgian Dream officials. Abazov denied the allegations to Studio Monitori.
‘I have no knowledge of such a case and I haven’t seen the video. I don’t know this person. And I’m happy not to be aware of such a thing and not to have seen it, if such a thing really happened’, Abazov said.
When offered to be shown the video, he said he did not want to as he was working and ‘it would be unpleasant to watch’.
On Wednesday, the Prosecutor’s Office announced at a press briefing that a criminal investigation had been launched against four people. The investigation details suggest that the evening after the rally, the victim was contacted by UNM member Ramin Asakov, who said they should meet at the local UNM office in Marneuli.
Upon arriving at the office, the victim was reportedly met by UNM MP Azer Suleimanov, Marneuli City Council member Ramin Alakhverdiev, and others.
‘MP Azer Suleymanov asked [the man] to explain who ordered him to make the live video, after which Azer Suleimanov, Ramin Alakhverdiev and citizen E.G. (a relative of Abazov) beat him’, says the Prosecutor’s statement.
According to the investigation, the victim was then taken by Georgian Dream city council members Jeikhun Choidarov and Ramin Alakhverdiev near a local restaurant, where Marneuli Mayor Temur Abazov was waiting for him.
‘Upon his arrival, Temur Abazov spat in [the victim’s] face and beat him. Than he made him go live on Facebook to apologise and insult his own wife. Eventually, Marneuli Mayor Temur Abazov forcefully made [the victim] urinate in a cup and wash his face off with the urine’, the prosecutor’s statement reads.
Abazov was arrested on Wednesday and may face 5–10 years in jail if convicted. Ramin Alakhverdiev, E.G., and Azer Suleymanov were charged with group assault on a vulnerable person and may face 2 years imprisonment.
As a member of Parliament, Suleimanov has immunity from arrest. The prosecutor said they would not try to remove his immunity as he was being charged with a ‘less severe crime’. They said this would be reconsidered after court makes final judgement.
Suleimanov told Netgazeti even though he had met the man, he was not involved in beating him. ‘This is blackmail, a provocation against me’, he said, adding that the victim was a Georgian Dream activist.
He said he had asked the man why he would make such a statement given that he ‘was a Georgian Dream activist’. ‘Nobody beat him there. I don’t know what happened later’, he told Netgazeti.