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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1104 2009-06-16 13:56 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #1104/01 1671356
O 161356Z JUN 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 001104 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/16/2019 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
1.  (C)  Summary:  The June 15 incident at the Dighomi Police 
Station (reftel) resulting in the detention of 39 protesters 
caused few initial political ripples.  Non-parliamentary 
leaders addressed about 500-1000 supporters in front of 
Parliament at roughly 7 pm the same day.  Non-parliamentary 
leaders blamed the United States and other western countries 
for the violence, citing earlier statements condemning the 
June 12 violence at Parliament.  The crowd was predominately 
male and over 40 years of age.  Non-parliamentary leaders 
held a diplomatic corps briefing to express their 
disappointment with diplomats and urged them to make a more 
"balanced" assessment of events.  Non-parliamentary 
opposition leaders admitted that a number of protesters in 
the crowd were involved in the incident at Parliament on June 
12 and were deliberately taunting the police to arrest them. 
Police dispersed the crowd with batons and confiscated 
cameras and video equipment which were later returned. 
Deputy Minister of Interior Eka Zguladze apologized on live 
television for the incident and police overreaction and 
announced that 39 protesters had been detained, most of whom 
would be processed and released.  The Ambassador spoke to 
Speaker Bakradze to raise concerns surrounding the 
government's response to the protesters.  Bakradze indicated 
that an investigation has been opened an a number of police 
officers have been disciplined.  End Summary. 
2.  (C)  Comment:  The immediate, acute political fallout of 
the events at Dighomi Police station appears minimal as the 
crackdown did little to stir public emotions.  Nonetheless, 
the police over-reaction was clearly a net negative for the 
GoG.  Despite the apologies, the confiscation of video 
equipment was unacceptable and the Ambassador conveyed that 
message to the Speaker of Parliament.  At best, the incident 
can only be described as a poorly-conceived response to a 
relatively minor provocation.  For their part, 
non-parliamentary opposition leaders seem as confused and 
rudderless as ever.  It was clear to all who attended the 
diplomatic corps briefing that the non-parliamentary 
opposition has no plan other than continued protests and 
possible escalation.  We will continue to push all sides 
toward dialogue although clearly the impasse grew deeper as a 
result of the events of June 15.  End Comment. 
What Happened!? 
3.  (C)  Piecing together information from various sources 
including five protest participants from the Republican 
party, a somewhat coherent picture emerges.  At roughly 1:30 
pm a group of protesters started organizing near Dighomi 
Police Station.  At roughly 2:15 somewhere between 50-150 
(depending on the account) protesters led by David 
Gamkrelidze (Alliance - New Rights) and Irakli Alasania 
supporter Zurab Abashidze walked a block or so and stopped in 
front of the Dighomi police station.  According to witnesses, 
the group was on the sidewalk opposite the police station and 
was not blocking traffic.  The group started to taunt police 
officers by calling out their (own) names and addresses, 
telling the police to arrest them.  (Embassy Note:  The 
taunting was confirmed by a number of opposition figures. 
End Note.)  After roughly 10 minutes, a group of police 
officers approached the crowd from a side street.  Depending 
on the account, some of the protesters stood and engaged the 
Qon the account, some of the protesters stood and engaged the 
police  while others started to flee.  (Embassy Comment:  Our 
view is that most protesters likely started to flee with a 
smaller number remaining to engage police.  End Comment.) 
Subsequently, a second group of police officers left the 
front gate of the Police Station and a third came from an 
adjacent courthouse to encircle the protesters.  Police used 
batons to disperse the crowd.  Witnesses said that most 
protesters fled into surrounding buildings to escape. 
According to the protesters, the clash lasted about 5-10 
minutes.  Police checked surrounding buildings for about 30 
minutes to arrest protesters who were hiding before returning 
to the police station. 
4.  (C)  MoIA confirmed that 39 protesters were charged with 
resisting arrest.  Television and other cameras were 
confiscated, but then returned to journalists after the 
incident.  According to at least one journalist, footage had 
been deleted by GoG authorities.  A reporter from Reuters 
told Post that she had been able to recover some images due 
to an anti-erase program with which her camera was equipped 
to prevent precisely this type of scenario.  French 
Ambassador Fournier told the Ambassador that Maestro TV also 
was able to salvage some footage of the event.  A number of 
journalists were also beaten during the crackdown although 
TBILISI 00001104  002 OF 003 
none required medical attention.  Deputy Minister of Interior 
Eka Zguladze issued a publi
c apology saying "this is our 
mistake and we acknowledge it.  The Interior Ministry will 
spare no efforts to avoid repeating the same in the future." 
Bakradze Listens to Ambassador's Message 
5.  (C)  The Ambassador spoke with Speaker Bakradze to 
express his concerns about the apparent police over-reaction 
and the treatment of media representatives.  The Ambassador 
told Bakradze that Post was documenting incidents of violence 
during protests and expected concrete, transparent responses. 
 Finally, the Ambassador reiterated A/S Gordon's message that 
the more progress the GoG makes on democratic reform, the 
more the USG can support them and that the incident on June 
15 was a net negative in that regard.  Bakradze said that he 
understood and would meet with Minister of Internal Affairs 
Vano Merabishvili immediately.  Bakradze called back and 
informed the Ambassador that as a result of the incident, 
four police officers had been suspended pending the outcome 
of an investigation, one police officer had been downgraded 
in rank, and four other police officers had been reprimanded. 
 Bakradze added that doctors had examined patients at the 
request of the Ombudsman's office and only Abashidze (broken 
nose) sustained injuries significant enough to require 
Non-Parliamentary Opposition Blames the United States, Others 
6.  (C)  At a June 15 afternoon rally, David Gamkrelidze 
called "on the Ambassadors, including Tefft and Fournier to 
make one more relevant statement.  This action by Saakashvili 
and Merabishvili was incited by their statements."  Tina 
Khidasheli (Republicans - wife of David Usupashvili) said 
that "diplomats are to blame for their irresponsible 
statements."  Levan Gachechiladze said that diplomats needed 
to "refrain from making provocative statements."  Eka Beselia 
(United Georgia) called the USG statement a "propaganda tool 
used by Saakashvili" and only an Embassy Statement.  Koba 
Davitashvili (Party of the People) followed by saying that 
these Ambassadors "have been appointed by previous 
administrations.  We'll see what will change." 
Non-parliamentary Opposition Briefs Diplomatic Corps 
7.  (C)  Nino Burjanadze (Democratic Movement - United 
Georgia), David Usupashvili (Alliance - Republicans), Victor 
Dolidze (Alliance), Salome Zourabichvili (Georgia's Way), 
Beselia, and Gamkrelidze addressed the diplomatic corps after 
their rally at Parliament the evening of June 15.  The group 
focused on the events of June 15 demanding statements 
condemning the GoG and the immediate release of the young 
people involved.  Burjanadze, Gamkrelidze, and Zourabichvili 
condemned the statements that gave Saakashvili "carte 
blanche" to crack down on the protesters.  The group repeated 
a long litany of grievances.  The non-parliamentary 
opposition blamed the GoG for the June 12 incidents outside 
of Parliament for "failing to alert" them of their exact 
plans.  Gamkrelidze called for an investigation, and 
speculated that although an egg or two had been thrown by 
protesters, it was likely that GoG plants in the crowd 
started throwing rocks to discredit the protesters.  The 
group repeatedly claimed that the GoG had never made any 
attempt at dialogue; therefore, demands for dialogue should 
be directed at the GoG.  (Embassy Comment:  Usupashvili who 
negotiated with Bakradze at the Ambassador's residence 
Qnegotiated with Bakradze at the Ambassador's residence 
remained silent.  Alasania ally Dolidze joined the chorus 
denouncing Bakradze, Saakashvili and others for refusing to 
engage in dialogue despite Alasania's previous talks with 
Bakradze.  End Comment.) 
Dip Corps Has Had Enough 
8.  (C)  After Burjanadze began another tirade blaming 
diplomats for the violence on June 15, the Dutch Ambassador 
interjected and called her remarks inappropriate.  Burjanadze 
interrupted him repeatedly until Usupashvili intervened and 
explained that they did not blame the Ambassadors per se but 
were only expressing their opinion as to how Saakashvili 
interpreted the comments.  The group suggested that the 
Ambassadors exercise more caution when issuing statements. 
After another round of thinly veiled recriminations alleging 
that the Ambassadors were unduly biased toward the GoG and do 
not understand what is happening in Georgia, French 
Ambassador Fournier interjected saying "we are not stupid, do 
not treat us like we are."  Fournier then outlined the work 
he and other Ambassadors had done promoting democracy and 
specific opposition causes.  Fournier continued that the 
non-parliamentary leaders subjective critiques of the 
Ambassador's job performances were misplaced.  The French 
TBILISI 00001104  003 OF 003 
Ambassador reiterated that the Ambassadors answer to their 
capitals, not the non-parliamentary opposition.  He then 
pointed out a number of inconsistencies in the 
non-parliamentary opposition's requests, on one hand telling 
the diplomatic corp not to intervene in internal affairs, 
then calling on the diplomatic corps to issue statements 
about the domestic political scene. 


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