Will killing of children provoke revolution in Georgia?

Will killing of children provoke revolution in Georgia?

Mass protests, which caused the resignation of Georgia's chief prosecutor Irakli Shotadze, will contine today at 16:00 local time (15:00 MSK), the organizrs of the protest rally said.

"We have information that thousands of residents from the regions will join our rally," Interfax cited Zviad Kuprava, one of the protesters, as saying.

Acording to the organizers, nearly 50 housands of people gathered in Tbilisi yesterday to protest. A group of around 200 protesters spent the night in tents outside the old parliament building, monitored by police, who have also erected barricades on the building's steps, which last night were thronged with protesters.

The rally was sparked by the killing of two teenagers in Tbilisi on December 1, 2017. Protesters accused the country’s law enforcement bodies of failing to properly investigate the tragedy. At first, protesters sought the resignation of the country’s chief prosecutor Irakly Shotadze. However, after the demand was met, the crowd demanded the resignation of the whole cabinet. The rally was organized by Zaza Saralidze, the father of one of the victims. 

Georgian Prime Minister Georgy Kvirikashvili briefly appeared before the crowd yesterday, and tried to make an address. He called to "bring the events back within the boundaries of the law" and vowed that the investigation into the murder will resume. However, his speech was disrupted by the crowd, who started whistling and chanting "leave!"

Kvirikashvili said he was not planning to resign to appease the protests.  "As soon as I am sure that my resignation benefits the country, that it can slightly improve the situation or defuse tensions, I will not hesitate even for a second about making this step. However, this is not today’s situation," he said.

"Tomorrow [on Friday] the case will be returned for investigation to Georgia’s interior ministry. Vice premier and Interior Minister Georgy Gakharia will oversee the process. He will head it, and, of course, I will follow every step and will control the entire process," Kvirikashvili said yesterday.

"During the investigation, to be conducted by the Interior Ministry, the parents of the slain teenagers can receive updates about it on a daily basis," he added.

The head of the Institute of Management Strategy, Petre Mamradze, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that people are primarily protesting against the inefficient work of law enforcement agencies. "As usual, there was a complete reluctance of witnesses to cooperate with the investigation - it is considered undesirable in Georgia to report someone, even if the crime is grave. Then the prosecutor's office collected all the necessary evidence aganst the killer, but the court did not accept them - so the chief prosecutor of Georgia Irakli Shotadze resigned in protest of this decision of the court. All this created a background that prompted people to take to the streets," he said.

The oppositionists did not fail to take advantage of this and started to stir up the rage of the crowd. "I immediately noticed that the most active people in the crowd were people shouting the slogans of Saakashvili Nazis. Of course, Saakashvili started shouting from abroad that all the judges should be dismissed. But it was him and his accomplices who appointed the main part of the current judges. This protest does not have a social base,  it is governed by the previous authorities,"Petre Mamradze pointed out.

The expert drew attention to the differences between the Georgian protests and the Armenian ones. "In Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan's clan ruled the country much longer than 10 years when he was president. Everyone knew that this is an extremely corrupt clan that stopped both the economic and political development of Armenia. But we have a completely different government: Giorgi Kvirikashvili is a modest, intelligent man who has no clan. Everyone knows that he can leave the post of prime minister any time and will receive a larger salary working in the banking system," he said.

"Now the protests are driven by the local analog of the Sargsyan clan, which is quite the opposite of the situation in comparison with the Yerevan protests. So I think it should not cause the political crisis," Petre Mamradze predicts.

The head of the Center for Security Studies and International Relations of Georgia, Nika Chitadze, also pointed to the people's dissatisfaction with the lack of the rule of law. "Criminals must be brought to justice in accordance with the criminal code. Now we know that, unfortunately, there have been many crimes, including murders, perpetrators of which were not punished. In this case, the society was confident that the killers of these two schoolchildren are covered by the prosecutor's office - there is also a suspicion that the son of one of the prosecutors participated in the fight and the murder. But it's only one of such cases," he explained.

The outcome of the current protests is still uncertain, Nikita Chitadze believes. "There were some slogans urging the resignation of the government, since it is likely that those who cover the killers, in turn, are covered by the ministers. In this regard, we cannot say that the government is safe. I recall that the Prime Minister yesterday was driven out of the rally. And it is possible that other political demands will be voiced, not only for a fair investigation, but also, for example, for holding early parliamentary elections," the head of the Center for Security Studies and International Relations of Georgia concluded.

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