Teen Murder Victim’s Father Temporarily Suspends Protests
Zaza Saralidze, father of one of the teenagers murdered last December, decided to temporarily suspend the solidarity rallies held in front of the old Parliament building in Tbilisi since May 31.
Saralidze announced the decision yesterday, following his meeting with members of the teen murder probe commission, saying small-scale rallies would continue, but a large demonstration would not be held until next week.
Speaking to a group of protesters later on Monday, Saralidze said he needed time off the protests to follow the investigation and court proceedings into the developments earlier that day.
Saralidze also noted that a large-scale rally would not be held until the end of Ramadan fasting, considering the interests of Malkhaz Machalikashvili, father of the terror-related case suspect who was shot dead during the State Security Service operation on December 26 in Georgia’s Muslim-majority Pankisi gorge.
He then stressed that all of his demands, including resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, would remain in force.
Saralidze’s decision follows the detention of 19 protesters on June 11, including Zviad Kuprava, one of the organizers of the rally, and Irakli Nadiradze, member of the Tbilisi City Council from the United National Movement, on charges of police disobedience and petty hooliganism.
The Tbilisi City Court sentenced Kuprava to 14 days of administrative imprisonment, while Irakli Nadiradze was released shortly after the arrest.
MP Nika Melia of the United National Movement was also briefly detained during the rally, but the ruling party members stressed the UNM lawmaker, who enjoys immunity under the country’s constitution, was merely “detached” from the area to prevent him from committing “further offenses.”
The protests in Tbilisi started mid-day on May 31, following the controversial court ruling over the teen murder case last December, which acquitted both suspects on group murder charges of Davit Saralidze, effectively defying the prosecution’s version of the incident and failing to identify the perpetrator in Saralidze’s murder case.
Several thousand protesters including students, public figures and opposition politicians, gathered in front of the Prosecutor’s Office, demanding Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze’s resignation.
Shotadze resigned later on May 31, but the protests continued and moved in front of the old Parliament building in Tbilisi, where their demands radicalized and included the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s government. The rallies continued in subsequent days under opposition leadership, but with fewer protesters.
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