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Two leaders of a Georgian queer rights group detained in Batumi on 25 August say they were physically and verbally abused by police. An investigation has been opened into alleged abuse of power.
Tornike Kusiani, a board member of the Equality Movement, and Levan Berianidze, the organisation’s director, were outside a nightclub in Batumi in the early hours of 25 August when strangers started insulting them, Berianidze’s lawyer told Tabula. Kusiani stepped away, but returned to the scene after seeing that another friend who was with them, a transgender woman, was bleeding.
One of her attackers, grabbing Kusiani’s hand, allegedly tried to prevent him from calling the police. Both Kusiani and Berianidze claim that a number of police officers were standing nearby but did nothing to help.
Instead of detaining the alleged attackers, police arrested the activists accusing them of disobeying police and disorderly conduct. Batumi City Court will now decide whether to fine them.
After being taken to a police station in Batumi, Berianidze and Kusiani claim to have been physically and verbally assaulted by police officers.
According to Berianidze, the officers called them ‘pederasts’, a derogatory term for gay people. ‘In the country of our Patriarch [the head of Georgia’s Orthodox Church]… why should we protect scum like you’, Berianidze quoted one of the officers during his court hearing.
The activist claims that officers told them to ‘take off their pants and bend over’.
Later that day, the Equality Movement posted several photos of Berianidze showing his injuries.
According to the Interior Ministry, ‘unidentified individuals and the arrested were abusing each other verbally and physically’. They claim that Berianidze and Kusiani resisted police, for which they were detained.
Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into alleged abuse of power by police.
Several supporters held a demonstration in solidarity with Berianidze and Kusiani in the evening of 25 August in front of the Government Chancellery in Tbilisi.
— Equality Movement (@EqualityGeorgia) 26 sierpnia 2017
‘The terror of the police must stop! Our lives are in danger’, the Equality Movement wrote on their Facebook page.
Georgia’s Public Defender’s Office wrote in a statement that queer people have long complained of being subjected to ‘offensive attitudes from the police’, urging the Prosecutor’s Office to take action.