Georgian opposition ready for fresh fight with Saakashvili

The Georgian opposition movement, People’s Assembly – despite a violent crackdown on government opponents on May 26 and hundreds of arrests – has vowed to resume its fight against the regime of President Mikhail Saakashvili.

The Vzglyad newspaper reports that Irakli Batiashvili, a member of the movement’s executive committee, said the leadership had failed “to disorganize” opposition activists.

“We are actively working and we cannot be stopped,” he is cited as saying.

According to Batiashvili, the Assembly will support a protest march in the capital, Tbilisi on September 27, which was initiated by the National Forum opposition party.

“People will see that we truly oppose the authoritarian regime,” he added.

In an interview with Georgian daily Akhali Taoba (New Generation), Batiashvili pointed out that any statements concerning the political and financial support of the People’s Assembly by Russia are “an idiocy.”

Back in May, the opposition organized mass street protests in Georgia. On May 26, the police, wielding tear gas and rubber bullets, violently dispersed a rally in the center of Tbilisi. Two people were killed and many others injured.

Following the events, Moscow blasted the Georgian authorities for its crackdown and urged the international community to investigate the events. The Russian Foreign Ministry described the actions of the Georgian police as “a flagrant violation of human rights,” including the right of assembly and freedom of speech.

The international community also warned the Georgian government against the excessive use of force to control peaceful protests. The recommendations were formulated within the First Universal Periodic Review on Georgia at the UN Human Rights Council in January.

Former Georgian President Eduard Schevardnadze said that the clampdown on the opposition was a big mistake and a demonstration of the authorities’ inability to use reason and restraint.

However Saakashvili – who maintains his country is building democracy – does not regret ordering the forced dispersal of protesters.

In an interview with Ukrainian online news site, published on Thursday, he insisted that “it sickens” him to watch TV reports about the use of force against protesters. “That is not in my nature at all,” Saakashvili stated.

While watching violence on television might well not be in his nature, the Georgian leader appears to have had few qualms about initiating violence. In November 2007, a massive force of Georgian police used the same harsh measures to disperse thousands of demonstrators, injuring almost 600 people. That was followed by the August 2008 war in the Caucasus that started after Saakashvili ordered an attack on the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinval.

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