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Tbilisi Pride founder faces prison for swearing at police

7 October 2021
Giorgi Tabagari at the protest outside parliament on 6 July 2021. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Georgian queer rights activist and Tbilisi Pride co-founder Giorgi Tabagari has said the Georgian authorities are seeking to imprison him for 15 days after he cursed at a police officer while being chased by homophobic mob in July.

According to queer rights group Tbilisi Pride, which was targetted by homophobic mob attacks on 5 July in Tbilisi, the Interior Ministry has charged Tabagari with an administrative offence for his language. 

[Read more on OC Media: Homophobic mob celebrates on Tbilisi streets after Pride march cancelled]

Tabagari informed the public about the case against him a month after the riot. He confirmed that, on 5 July, as he and his colleagues sought refuge from the roving homophobic mobs, he cursed at a police officer.

During the riot, the Tbilisi Pride office was ransacked, among several other offices belonging to NGOs and civic organisations. At the offices of the liberal opposition Shame Movement, rioters attacked TV Pirveli camera operator Aleksandre Lashkarava. He died several days later. 

At least 50 journalists and media workers were injured that day

‘The police who were nowhere to be found in places where actual risks for life emerged called me […] asking me to open the office door to examine the scene. I don’t regret the words I said’, Tabagari said earlier on 4 September. 

Rioters breaking into the Tbilisi Pride Office on 5 July 2021. Image via TV Formula.

Giorgi Tabagari told OC Media on 7 October that he got the call from police shortly after they managed to flee from rioters who had cornered them at the Human Rights House office in Tbilisi with the help of a vehicle provided by a private TV company Mtavari.

‘Considering the background of no charges being levied against any organiser of the violence [on 5 July], this whole case is very strange, and especially unjust’, Tabagari said. 

Several people have been charged for ‘group violence’, however, the organisers have so far only been questioned.

Speaking to OC Media, a Georgian Interior Ministry spokesperson denied they were seeking this specific punishment, adding that their representatives ‘only expressed their opinion about that after being asked by a judge’. 

Giorgi Tabatadze, Tabagari’s lawyer, contradicted the Interior Ministry’s claim by saying that Giorgi Macharashvili, a police investigator at Old Tbilisi division of Interior Ministry, personally requested 15 days of administrative arrest, the strictest measure available, against Giorgi Tabagari at a 7 October court hearing. 

‘Criticism of police entirely fits within the limits of freedom of expression however amoral it may seem to any police officer’, Tabatadze told OC Media

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