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Twenty far-right activists convicted over 5 July attack on journalists

4 April 2022
The verdicts were met with fury from far-right activists gathered outside the court. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Tbilisi City Court has convicted 20 far-right activists for the attacks on at least 53 media workers and others during the aborted Pride March in Tbilisi on 5 July 2021.

On Monday, the trials of 20 people in three separate cases came to a close. Nineteen were sentenced to between one and five years in prison, while one was fined but spared prison time.

None of the accused pleaded guilty, claiming they had not physically attacked anyone during the riots. 

None of the organisers of the violent attacks, which were led by the extremist group Alt Info, have been charged.

Georgia’s first Pride March had been planned for 5 July 2021, however, the event quickly spiralled into chaos as thousands of far-right counterprotesters took to the streets and attacked journalists and civil society groups.

At least 53 media workers were injured in targeted attacks during the ensuing violence, with the authorities facing criticism for their apparent inaction.

[Read on OC Media: Journalists recall day of terror in Tbilisi]

Media workers gathered in front of the court as the hearings concluded, while hundreds of supporters of far-right and pro-Russian group Alt Info also gathered, reacting with rage when the verdicts were announced. 

Supporters of far-right and pro-Russian group Alt Info were aggressive towards journalists working outside Tbilisi City Court. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Far-right crowds gathered outside the court shouted insults at OC Media’s journalist, preventing her from working and pushing her away from the protest area. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

There was a heavy police presence separating the two groups.

During the first hearing, seven people were accused of organising group violence against journalists and camera operators of Mtavari Arkhi, Formula, Imedi, Tabula, RFE/RL, and Rustavi 2.

Four were sentenced to one year and three months in prison, while the remaining two were sentenced to a year and two months. The remaining defendant was fined ₾5,000 ($1,600) and released.

Seven defendants were given prison sentences ranging from one year to three years in the second court session of the day, while six of the accused are expected to serve only six months, having been in pre-trial detention since last year. 

Supporters of Alt Info praying outside Tbilisi City Court, expressing their support towards those convicted. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

‘I really held my breath for 10 months and now I exhale’

During the third and final hearing, six defendants were sentenced to five years in prison for assaulting TV Pirveli journalist Miranda Baghaturia and the late-camera operator Alexandre (Lekso) Lashkarava.

Both were severely beaten while covering an attack by far-right activists on the offices of Shame!, a liberal group. Lashkarava required surgery after sustaining broken facial bones and a concussion. He passed away a week later.

Six months after Lashkarava’s death, an official autopsy claimed he died of a heroin overdose.

[Read on OC Media: Georgian journalist died of heroin overdose following 5 July attack, autopsy claims]

Baghaturia hailed the verdict. ‘I held my breath for 10 months and now I can exhale’, she told journalists gathered in front of the court.

‘Thank you toom and thank you Lekso. Thanks to Lekso, for his death was not in vain. At some point, we realise we won with this 5-year sentence’, she said.

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