The Democracy Research Institute believes that Georgian Dream's emphatically loyal attitude towards hate groups, which was manifested in leaving many incidents of violence without responding, was once again made evident on July 17-18. Moreover, it has been a year that the direct and indirect incitement to violence by high officials has become an alarming trend.
On June 17, 2023, violent and radical groups attacked minor participants in an educational camp organized by the Girchi - More Freedom party and the Institute For Individual Liberty in the Eco Hotel territory in Borjomi. The offenders threw stones, eggs and used profane language. They threw stones and paints at the car of Roko Mtserashvili, a member of the Girchi More Freedom party. Vato Shakarashvili, the founder of Georgia First, a satellite organization of the government and a former member of Georgian Dream, was at the site of the attack. In an interview with the media, he confirmed that the supporters of his organization were on the site, and he justified the above by protecting the Patriarchate and religion. It is alarming that the Ministry of Internal Affairs, according to eyewitnesses, had left the violence without responding for at least 40 minutes.
The violent disruption of the educational camp was preceded by an attack on Zura Girchi Japaridze, the leader of the Girchi More Freedom party, in Gori on June 17. Soso Maisuradze, a resident of Gori, claimed responsibility for the attack on the opposition leader. He said in his Facebook post that "Zura Japaridze was beaten for perverting our children, for insulting the Patriarch and the Church."
Vato Shakarashvili was one of the first persons to respond to the attack on Zura Girchi Japaridze on Facebook, inciting the violence and noting that Zura Japaridze would no longer be able to "poison" young people with his trainings.
On June 18, 2023, the groups organized by Vato Shakarashvili protested the annual conference organized by the Franklin Club. At the rally, Vato Shakarashvili referred to the Franklin Club as a "terrorist group".
The Franklin Club has repeatedly become the target of aggressive rhetoric of the representatives of the government, especially during the protests against the so-called agents law. Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili used a number of discrediting epithets about the members of the Franklin Club. In particular, he referred to the members of the mentioned organization as "Satanists and extremists" and accused them of organizing provocations. Georgian Dream Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze also referred to the Franklin Club as a radical group and an agent of foreign forces.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs launched investigations into both violent incidents on June 17. The attack on Zura Girchi Japaridze is being investigated under Article 126 (violence) of the Criminal Code, and the disruption of the seminar and the violence that occurred there is being investigated under Article 187 (destruction of another person’s property). It is not known to the public whether the investigation is working in the direction of identifying Vato Shakarashvili's responsibility as the organizer of the violent crimes.
The violent incidents, protests and attacks chronologically carried out on June 17-18, directly led or incited by Vato Shakarashvili, the leader of the pro-government satellite organization - Georgia First, openly contradict democratic values and threaten freedom of speech and expression. Violence against dissent, persecution of minors and an aggressive campaign against the civil sector and society threaten the country's Western integration and represent significant obstacles to its EU candidate status.
The Democracy Research Institute calls on the Government to:
end open and covert support for the violent groups and instrumentalization of violence as a weapon against opponents;
ensure the immediate identification of those funding and organizing the radical groups and the implementation of measures against them in accordance with legislation;
ensure the identification of persons participating in the attack on civil society organizations and citizens and the implementation of measures against them in accordance with