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24 May, 2009 05:53

Georgian police rampant after military mutiny

In Georgia, almost three dozen people have been arrested in connection with a tank battalion mutiny earlier this month. Opposition and rights activists are demanding a criminal investigation into police actions.

The mutiny was crushed, and the plotters captured – but what could seem a successful operation by Georgian police is seen by many as another act of the state’s illegal actions to suppress the opposition – something that the state denies.

“The men were armed and resisted arrest, and as a result of the shootout, one of them died and two others were wounded. They were detained and sent to hospital,” commented Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Grigol Beselia.

All three men have military backgrounds and are suspected of masterminding the alleged rebellion on May 5.

The dead man – Gia Krialashvili – was their leader, according to police. But while his death is not in dispute, anything concerning this apparent mutiny raises questions.

The opposition claims the state is doing everything it can to destroy evidence that can disclose what really happened on May 5.

“We have information that the government doesn’t want to find these people and use them for investigation, and there will be a special order to kill them during special operations. Unfortunately, it happened like this. Of course, I don’t want to judge without at least preliminary investigation, but I’m absolutely sure that it was a criminal action from the side of the police,” said opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze.

But the arrests didn’t end with the suspected plotters. Their families came under official suspicion too. The brother of Koba Otanadze says he was detained together with his wife and an 18-year-old son.

“They hit me on the head with the butt of the gun, twisted my arms and barged into the room, took our cell phones, our phone books, took my money too, about $ 5,000 – the earnings of my little shop. They dragged us out and drove us to the special operations building of the Georgian Interior Ministry,” says Dzhimsher Otanadze.

The police later released them – without charge. Another of Koba’s brothers, Nugsar, was also held by police.

“I’m so afraid he’ll be tortured. I’ve been told his arm is broken and I’m scared of what else they’ll do to him. I don’t trust this government. They can beat and kill people for no reason. I’m afraid to let my children out of the house now,” says Natia Otanadze, wife of an arrested man.

Human right activists are demanding a criminal investigation into the police’s actions. but many doubt it will happen in this country.

“Our society knows that even if the case was to be opened, these people would still get away scot-free,” said military expert Irakly Sesiashvili.

With anti-government protests entering their second month, reports of people being detained without trial are growing too – amid claims that the authorities are getting increasingly desperate to find someone to blame.