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Policemen, Protesters Injured in Confrontation
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 7 May.'09 / 01:30

Several opposition politicians and activists have been injured as a result of a confrontation with the police that took place outside the Tbilisi police department headquarters late on Wednesday evening.

The Interior Ministry said that six policemen were injured.

Protesters arrived at the Tbilisi police headquarters after a singer and an activist Giorgi Gachechiladze suddenly appeared at the rally outside the Parliament on Wednesday evening and called on the protesters to march towards the Tbilisi police department to demand release of three activists arrested in connection with assault on the public TV.

“If we now forgive them [the authorities] this arrest and if we do not set them [activists] free, it will continue for ever. We are now going to Digomi [Tbilisi’s district where the capital city’s police headquarters is located] to set free these guys,” he told protesters.

After the arrival of protesters at the police headquarters, Giorgi Gachechiladze got over the iron fence and went inside the police yard, where a group of policemen - not the riot police - was standing. Only later it became known that Giorgi Gachechiladze was hospitalized with broken rib. He said that police officers forced him on the ground and started beating him, including with batons.

After Giorgi Gachechiladze got over the fence and dissapeared among the police officers inside the police headquarters yard, protesters approached the fence and started to shake it and verbally insulting policemen standing on the other side of the fence. 

Riot police with shields and batons were deployed inside the police headquarters yard, at the iron fence, . Protesters were standing on the other side of the fence.

At that point, riot policemen took position immediately at the fence, which divides police yard from the street; riot police did not go beyond the fence. 

Riot police was chanting: "Misha, Misha."

They were hitting batons at protesters to push them away from the fence.

Opposition politicians, including Levan Gachechiladze, Gia Maisashvili, Zviad Dzidziguri, Shalva Obgaidze, were seen with blood stains in their heads. Some other opposition activists, as well as at least one cameraman and a female journalist, also two security guards of Nino Burjanadze, leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, were also seen having blood stains in their heads.

It was not immediately clear what caused their injuries. According to some reports riot police used rubber bullets; but later most of the witnesses on the ground said that mainly plastic bullets were used by the police.

Some opposition activists have claimed that police officers were also tossing stones. Public Defender, Sozar Subari, who arrived on the scene after the incident started, said he had seen policemen tossing stones. Protesters were also seen tossing various items on the police officers, including sticks, which were used as flag handles.

Nino Burjanadze was seen at one point calling on protesters through loudspeakers to “move back from the fence.”

Later the protesters left the immediate vicinity of the police department headquarters and moved not too far from the headquarters, blocking the highway there; later they left the area and continued rallying outside the Parliament.

Eka Zguladze, the deputy interior minister, described the protesters action as “dangerous criminal act.”

“The police have demonstrated extreme restraint,” she said. “The police was protecting the inner perimeter of [the police department] and it was no way a break up of the rally.”

When asked about injures among protesters, she said: “I saw on TV that there have been tossing of items on the both sides. I know that several policemen have their heads broken.”

A chief doctor at the nearby hospital said at least 17 persons asked for treatment. “All of them have lacerated wounds; not a single wound is life-threatening,” doctor Zaza Sinauridze told journalists.

Others injured in the incident have applied for treatment in other hospitals; police said that total of 22 protesters, one journalist from public TV and six policemen were injured. The police figures were based on number of people who asked for treatment in the hospital.

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