People disappear in Georgia after violent dispersal of opposition rally

Tbilisi: An injured man walks in front of the ranks of the Georgian riot police officers dispersing opposition rally (AFP Photo /Zura Tvauri)
Opposition leaders urge Georgian government to investigate the disappearances of protesters in Tbilisi after the brutal police crackdown of the peaceful rally. They also vow to stage more protests to free the country from the ‘tyrant’ Saakashvili.

Giya Tsagareishvili, a member of the Georgian parliament from the opposition party of Free Democrats, named ten protesters that vanished after the protests in Tbilisi on May 26. None of them could be found among those detained by the police or in any of the hospitals in the capital city of Tbilisi.

“All of this was happening in Tbilisi, in the capital of the country that, according to Mikhail Saakashvili, came this close to the doorstep of the European Union.” Tsagareishvili said. “Well let me remind Mr. Saakashvili that there, in Paris, London, Berlin and Tallinn, protests are not drowned in blood and people do not disappear.”

Giya Tsagareishvili is not the only opposition leader that draws attention to the strange occurrences which took place after the demonstration was dispersed by the police on Wednesday. The Party of Georgia leader Levan Gachechiladze says that Georgian officials are seriously underreporting the number of casualties after the police’s brutal crackdown on protesters in the center of Tbilisi on May 26.

Gachechiladze stated that he himself had become the victim of the police’s harsh actions on the Rustaveli Avenue.He was rendered unconscious and spent several hours lying in a construction pit not far from the street.

In an interview with Georgian ‘Maestro’ television station, Levan Gachechiladze, who wasthe main rivalof Mikhail Saakashviliduring the 2007presidentialelection, said that the opposition is not going to back off and is planning a new ‘silent protest’ in the city in honor of those who were injured on Wednesday night.

“We should make a stand against a tyrant,” he said, adding that Saakashvili is not acting out against opposition with courtly manners and neither should the opposition.

“Enough of disputes within the opposition parties! All individual ambitions should go. We need solidarity.I will go on with the fight!” he said "There must be solidarity, there must be trust, but not towards individuals and their reassurances of who will topple the regime faster, but towards the process against the tyranny for the sake of saving Georgia.”

Amnesty International released a statement urging Georgian authorities to immediately launch a thorough investigation of the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers during the dispersal of anti-government protests.

"While some of the protesters were armed with makeshift shields and flagpoles and clearly intent on resisting attempts to disperse them, the police have no excuse for beating those offering no resistance,"said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Director for Europe andCentral Asia.

UK’s Minister for Europe David Lidington also calls on Georgian Government to investigate the violent protests.

Commenting on the violence in Tbilisi in the early hours of 26 May he said:“I was saddened to hear of the violence on the streets of Tbilisi yesterday and the deaths of two Georgian citizens. Whilst there is a place for legal protest and demonstrations in any democracy, there can be no place for violence.I hope that all will renounce such actions. I encourage the Georgian Government to investigate fully the events of the past 24 hours.”

The Georgian government used force to disrupt opposition protests in the capital Tbilisi after midnight on May 26 in order to clear the streets for the Independence Day parade. The demonstrators refused to leave the streets after four days of protests vowing to oust President Saakashvili.