Friday, May 24, 2013

Georgian Priests Charged Over LGBT Rally Violence

Two high-ranking Georgian priests have been charged in connection with the May 17 attack by conservative activists on a gay rights rally in downtown Tbilisi, the News Georgia news agency reported on Thursday. The head of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi, Antimoz (Tamaz) Bichinashvili, and the head of the Ioane-Tornike Eristavi Monastery, Iotam (Irakli) Basilaya, have been charged with using or threatening the use of force to infringe on the right to peaceful assembly, the Georgian Interior Ministry said. They face up to two years in prison if found guilty. Gay rights activists from the Identoba (Identity) group planned to hold a rally outside the former parliament building on the city’s central Rustaveli Avenue last Friday to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Tbilisi authorities had authorized the event. However, thousands of anti-gay protestors, mostly Christian activists, priests and members of conservative non-governmental organizations, gathered in the designated location before the rally began, forcing gay activists to change the venue. Several dozen gay rights activists who came to take part moved to a small area adjacent to Freedom Square, about two hundred meters away from the initial site. After it became known that the venue of Identoba’s rally had been changed, participants of the anti-gay demonstration moved toward Freedom Square, breaking through police cordons on their way. A total of 28 people, including three police officers and one journalist, were injured in ensuing violence. Though the Georgian Orthodox Church has officially denounced the attack, it said that its clerics and believers only reacted to “an event that was provocative from the very beginning.”

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