Investigation Launched Into MPs Scuffle with TV Boss at U.S. Embassy Event

The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia announced on July 19 that an investigation has been launched into the “fact of violence and threats” which occurred at the U.S. Embassy on June 30 involving TV Pirveli founder Vakhtang (Vato) Tsereteli and ruling Georgian Dream party deputies.

Per Tsereteli’s account, he was violently assaulted by GD MP Anri Okhanashvili, who chairs the Legal Affairs Committee while attending American Independence Day celebrations at the Embassy that day. MP Okhanashvili was accompanied by ruling party MPs Irakli Zarkua, Beka Odisharia, and Levan Mgaloblishvili. Tsereteli said the group approached him shouting, after which Okhanashvili and another MP slapped him in the face. On their part, the GD MPs denied the accusation with Okhanashvili claiming that Tsereteli approached him to whisper something into his ear and staged a “dirty provocation” for which he “got the answer he deserved.”

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the investigation started under Articles 126 (violence) and 151 (threat) of the Criminal Code of Georgia.

Per the statement, Tsereteli addressed the Prosecutor about alleged violence against him while MP Okhanashvili appealed to them about Tsereteli having threatened him. MP Mgaloblishvili meanwhile also filed an application about possible violence against him.

The Prosecutor’s Office denoted that they launched an investigation after the U.S. Embassy expressed its readiness to cooperate on the issue with relevant agencies on July 15.

Tsereteli, MP Okhanashvili Respond

Tsereteli stated yesterday, “I am sure that this was organized because Anri Okhanashvili is not such an emotional, crazy person for something to have happened to him then and there.”

“Whether the Prosecutor has the will or not, they will not be able to shelf this issue and will have to bring it to its conclusion because they must understand, that this happened on the territory of the U.S. Embassy,” the TV Pirveli founder emphasized.

Per TV Pirveli, Tsereteli also addressed his comment to MP Okhanashvili which allegedly elicited the violent reaction, saying it related to him blaming the GD MPs for their responsibility in the death of TV Pirveli cameraman Aleksandre (Lekso) Lashkarava who was found dead in his apartment last year several days after being assaulted by far-right, anti-Tbilisi Pride mobs.

MP Okhanashvili maintained his innocence yesterday and reiterated that Tsereteli “staged a dirty provocation, with the most serious insult, which may contain signs of a crime.” “Every step, every one of my actions is within the legal framework that I legitimately had as a state political official,” he added.

Media Watchdog Reacts

The Media Advocacy Coalition, a press freedoms watchdog, responded to the news by releasing their original statement from July 1 once again, expressing concern at the “fact of violence committed by the ruling party’s deputies, as well as the following assessments of the violent actions, which further worsens the media environment and makes journalistic activities in the country dangerous.”

The Coalition called on Georgian Dream to hold its deputies “accountable and make appropriate statements to stop the frequent attacks on media representatives.”

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)