Seven More Sentenced over July 5 Violence

The Tbilisi City Court today handed down prison sentences to seven more suspects of the series of violent attacks during the homophobic pogroms of July 5, 2021.

Three of the suspects were reportedly convicted of an attack on Giorgi Nikolishvili, a photojournalist of online news agency Interpressnews, one person of an attack on an ordinary citizen and three more of an assault on TV Pirveli cameraman Levan Bregvadze.

Six of the persons received a one-year prison term, and one received an 18-month sentence, the Interpressnews reported.

The Court found none of the suspects guilty of participation in organized group violence (Article 225.2 of the Criminal Code) as charged, according to media reports.

Investigators had led the probe into the various violent attacks during the violent alt-right, anti-LGBT of July 5-6, 2021, under Article 225.2, as well as Article 154.2 — unlawful interference with journalists’ professional activities and Article 156.2a — persecution using violence or threat of violence.

In total, police had detained 31 persons over the series of incidents. Among them, 27 were suspected of attacking journalists, one was accused of attacking an ordinary citizen and three were charged with ransacking the office of Tbilisi Pride.

As things stand, 26 of the attackers on journalists have been sent to prison, while one was handed a fine. The attacker on the ordinary citizen has also been imprisoned. Meanwhile, the three persons involved in the attack on the Tbilisi Pride office have been released on bail and await their judgment, the final first instance ruling in the July 5-6 case.

Meanwhile, the prosecution has announced earlier that it will contest the Tbilisi City Court’s decision to either replace or dismiss the charges of participation in organized group violence in the higher court.

Noteworthy, the Georgian Government has faced domestic and international criticism, as law enforcers have yet to identify and press charges against the organizers of the mass violence seven months later.

Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria has requested the authorities to launch criminal proceedings against Zurab Makharadze, far-right Alt-Info TV outlet anchor and chair of Russia-friendly political party, Conservative Movement, and Spiridon Tskipurishvili, a Georgian Orthodox clergyman, over organizing group violence on July 5.

Background on the July 5 Homophobic Pogroms

Ahead of the planned July 5 Pride March, Georgian far-right group and TV network Alt-Info had called for supporters to rally against the LGBT rights demonstration, while the Georgian Orthodox Church organized prayer in front of the Kashveti Church, on Rustaveli Avenue.

The situation became tense in the morning on July 5, as far-right crowds gathered on Rustaveli avenue violently dismantled anti-government protest tents outside the Parliament.

Then a series of violent events ensued as the anti-gay crowds began to attack journalists covering the counterprotest.

The hate groups also stormed the office of Tbilisi Pride and attempted to break into the office of the Shame Movement, the organizers of the Pride March. TV Pirveli cameraman Lekso Lashkarava was brutally assaulted when covering the attack on the Shame Movement office, and he died six days later. While the authorities have published excerpts from the autopsy claiming he died of drug overdose, Lashkarava’s family, friends and colleagues do not trust the forensics.

The Pride March was subsequently canceled on July 5 amid the unchecked violence and the lack of safety guarantees by the state.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili had argued ahead of the turmoil that holding the Pride March on Rustaveli Avenue would be unreasonable and had claimed that “radical opposition” was behind Tbilisi Pride.

On July 6, opposition, activists and Tbilisi Pride held a silent rally in protest of the previous day’s violence. The demonstration was again met with a violent counterprotest.

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