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‘The System Should Be Destroyed,’ Georgian Protest Leader Says

Controversial verdict in murder case of two teenagers catalyzes demonstrations against corruption, which have already rattled the upper echelons of power.

6 June 2018

Protesters in Georgia are asking for the government’s resignation amid widespread disapproval of a verdict in the case of a murder of two teenagers, RFE/RL reports.

 

One the people leading the protests, Zaza Saralidze, is the father of Davit Saralidze, who, along with fellow teenager Levan Dadunashvili, was killed in a brawl between students from different schools last December.

 

Two defendants were handed prison sentences of 10 years and nine years on 1 June, with one of them charged with murder and the other, attempted murder. However, the investigation was marred by allegations of misconduct since the beginning, with CCTV footage showing the father of one of the defendants, who was a high-ranking employee in the Prosecutor’s Office, destroying evidence at the crime scene, OC Media reports.

 

“The system should be destroyed," said Zaza Saralidze after meeting with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

 

Additionally, RFE notes, Saralidze, along with other protesters, believe that additional people complicit in the murders had escaped justice as a result of their connections in the Prosecutor’s Office.

 

"We are against injustice. We are against the arbitrariness of the authorities and the rotten political system, which must collapse," Saralidze told the protesters on 1 June, according to another RFE article.

 

 

Irakly Shotadze, Georgia’s chief prosecutor, resigned on 31 May in the aftermath of mass demonstrations, Civil.ge writes. At the time, he released a statement saying that the Prosecutor’s Office had done everything it could to hold the perpetrators of the murders accountable. “Fair justice is extremely important, especially when it relates to the murder of teenagers,” the statement read.

 

Initially, the protests called for the immediate resignation of Shotadze amid widespread anger over the verdict. That quickly led to demands for the entire government to step down.

 

“Shotadze’s resignation is not enough,” Saralidze said, according to RFE. “Others [prosecutors] should resign, and all of them should be brought to trial.”

 

Kvirikashvili has refused to quit so far, and ordered another investigation into the killing, RFE reports.

 

 

  • The prime minister’s resignation wouldn’t be enough, says Ted Jonas, an American lawyer, who has been living in Georgia for more than 20 years, in an op-ed for Civil.ge. “He would be replaced by another politician, whether by appointment or by elections, who is going to use the courts, the police, and the prosecutor in the same way, for the ruling party’s own purposes,” he wrote. That would amount to “Georgians buying the same medicine with which they have been poisoned before.” Instead, Jonas argues, reform of the justice system would be the best way forward.

 

  • The protests coincided with a strike of subway workers who have been asking for an increase in their salaries. Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze said that the Tbilisi Transport Company, the capital’s transport authority, as well as Tbilisi City Hall, did not have the financial resources to meet such demands, Civil.ge writes. Started on 3 June, the strike led to the closing down of the Tbilisi metro.

 

  • Tbilisi clubgoers had a dramatic weekend in mid-May, after police forces raided two popular nightclubs, Bassiani and Cafe Gallery, in an anti-drug operation that resulted in the arrest of eight people. The ravers, however, said that the drugs were planted by the police themselves, and organized protests that continued throughout the Georgian capital for several days.

Compiled by Tyler Haughn

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