KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 11 January 2002.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. GEORGIA: "NO ACTION" IN WAKE OF ATTACK ON
PENTECOSTALS. Members of the Word of Life Pentecostal Church,
human rights activists and some politicians have complained about the
failure of the police or prosecutor's office to take any action so far in the
wake of last month's attack on a Word of Life service in a cinema in the
centre of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The mob raid - the latest in a long
series of attacks on minority religious communities dating back to 1999 -
was led by Basil Mkalavishvili, a defrocked priest of the Orthodox
Church who enjoys de facto immunity from prosecution for his violent
raids"They must be arrested," the church's pastor insisted to Keston. "It's
not a question of religious freedom but of hooliganism. Such hooligan
gangs should not be allowed to exist."

II. GEORGIA: "MKALAVISHVILI SHOULD BE ARRESTED AT
ONCE," SAYS SENIOR POLITICIAN "Basil Mkalavishvili should be
arrested immediately for violating the law and citizens' rights," Elena
Tevdoradze, chair of the Georgian parliament's human rights committee
told Keston News Service from Tbilisi on 11 January, three weeks after
Mkalavishvili led a violent raid on a Protestant service (see separate KNS
article). "It is very strange that he has not been arrested already." Tbilisi's
chief prosecutor told Keston on 11 January that the case against
Mkalavishvili and one of his closest associates was completed last
October and has been sent to the court of Tbilisi's Didube-Chugureti
district. No date has yet been named for a trial.

I. GEORGIA: "NO ACTION" IN WAKE OF ATTACK ON
PENTECOSTALS

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Members of the Word of Life Pentecostal Church, human rights activists
and some politicians have complained about the failure of the police or
prosecutor's office to take any action so far in the wake of last month's
attack on a Word of Life service in a cinema in the centre of the Georgian
capital Tbilisi. The mob raid - the latest in a long series of attacks on
minority religious communities dating back to 1999 - was led by Basil
Mkalavishvili, a defrocked priest of the Orthodox Church who enjoys de
facto immunity from prosecution for his violent raids. (see KNS 26
September 2001) "We have not arrested Mkalavishvili," the duty police
officer at the Mtatsminda-Krtsanisi district police told Keston News
Service on 11 January. "Why should we?" His boss, district police chief
Togo Gogua, confirmed later in the day that his officers had not arrested
anyone in the wake of the latest attack. "I'm not the procurator and I'm not
the judge. An investigation is underway," Gogua declared. "They must be
arrested," the church's pastor insisted to Keston. "It's not a question of
religious freedom but of hooliganism. Such hooligan gangs should not be
allowed to exist."

The 150-strong Word of Life congregation - one of ten congregations in
Georgia linked to the Swedish-based Word of Life Church led by Ulf
Ekman - does not have its own church building and rents the Iveria
cinema on Tbilisi 's central Rustaveli avenue.

Mkalavishvili and some fifty supporters descended on the cinema as the
23 December morning service was ending, the church's pastor Mamuka
Jebisashvili told Keston from Tbilisi on 10 January. "They came in,
ringing bells, and proceeded to beat, break and steal during the 25-minute
attack." The mob severely beat two church members - Kakha Chkhaidze
and Badri Machitashvili, though several other men - including Ramaz
Jeladze, Georgi Machitadze, Jemal Sakuashvili and Vazha Jabanishvili -
and women - including Endi Mamatelashvili - were also beaten. The
attackers broke the sound system, stole church money, a Yamaha
synthesiser and personal handbags, and seized and tore up religious
books, including copies of the Bible.

Jebisashvili told Keston that the police were summoned by the cinema
security staff - one of whom was also severely beaten by the attackers �
and that they prevented the attackers reaching a smaller room where the
church's Sunday school was being held. However, he said they had not
come into the main hall.

Emil Adelkhanov of the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Development and
Democracy told Keston that the attackers also broke the camera of a
reporter from the Ajaria television company who was filming the attacks.
Nevertheless, both Ajaria and another TV station Rustavi-2 showed film
of the attacks later in the day.

Jebisashvili was adamant that Mkalavishvili had planned and directed the
raid, although he said he had not himself entered the cinema.
"Mkalavishvili stood outside above the cinema on the street and directed
the raid from outside the whole time," Jebisashvili told Keston. "After it
was over he went up onto Rustaveli where he prayed and held a
demonstration."

Two church members had to seek treatment at the Aramyan hospital for
their wounds. "When they found out the two were members of our church
the doctors said their wounds were not serious," Jebisashvili reported.
"They said it was just a nervous manifestation. We had to treat them at
home."

Jebisashvili said the police took statements from some church members
and that Major Vazha Nachkebia of the local police had told him that they
had started a case. Gogua of the district police told Keston that the
investigation had been handed to an investigator at the city level, but he
did not know his name or his phone number although he promised to find
out.

Manuchar Tsimintia, a Tbilisi-based lawyer who represents the Jehovah's
Witnesses and has had contact with Word of Life since the December
attacks, believes Mkalavishvili's participation in the latest raid violates the
terms of his police surveillance ordered by a court last summer as part of
a separate criminal case against him (see separate KNS article). "He was
put under supervision and pledged to behave himself. He has clearly
violated this by carrying on organising these attacks," Tsimintia told
Keston from Tbilisi on 11 January. He would like Word of Life to join a
legal complaint he intends to lodge on behalf of the Jehovah's Witnesses
next week to have Mkalavishvili arrested immediately.

Although Mkalavishvili has been defrocked by the Orthodox Patriarchate
and is now a priest of a different Orthodox jurisdiction, there are many
who believe his actions have strong support within the Patriarchate. "Be it
known that some sectarians, Pentecostals, Charismatics and Disciples of
Christ, hold their meetings at the Iveria cinema," the Patriarchate's press
centre warned on 12 August last year. "Be it known that everyone who
attends them destroys his own soul and is doomed to eternal torments."
(END)

II. GEORGIA: "MKALAVISHVILI SHOULD BE ARRESTED AT
ONCE," SAYS SENIOR POLITICIAN

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

"Basil Mkalavishvili should be arrested immediately for violating the law
and citizens' rights," Elena Tevdoradze, chair of the Georgian parliament's
human rights committee told Keston News Service from Tbilisi on 11
January, three weeks after Mkalavishvili - a defrocked Orthodox priest -
led a violent raid on a Protestant service (see separate KNS article). "It is
very strange that he has not been arrested already." Despite a three-year
reign of terror against religious minorities - including Baptists,
Pentecostals and Jehovah�s Witnesses - Mkalavishvili appears to remain
above the law, although a long-running criminal case for his nearly 100
violent attacks may be about to reach the courts. Tengiz Makharadze,
Tbilisi's chief prosecutor, told Keston on 11 January that the case against
Mkalavishvili and one of his closest associates, Petri Ivanidze, was
completed last October and has been sent to the court of Tbilisi's Didube-
Chugureti district. No date has yet been named for a trial.

Makharadze denied that the investigation had been slow. "There were
many incidents to investigate and we had to question many witnesses," he
told Keston. "We also had to get information from prosecutors in Gori
and other towns. We haven't been slow." Asked why Mkalavishvili had
not already been arrested in the light of the serious allegations against him
for numerous incidents dating back to 1999, Makharadze declared that
this would be a matter for the courts. He stressed that under a court ruling
from last year, Mkalavishvili is already under court-sanctioned
supervision. He declined to say whether he believed his participation in
recent incidents - among them the 28 September attack on the Jehovah's
Witnesses and the 23 December attack on Word of Life church - violated
the provisions of the supervision order.

Manuchar Tsimintia, a Tbilisi-based lawyer who represents the Jehovah's
Witnesses - who have suffered more than 80 violent attacks, most of them
led by Mkalavishvili - told Keston on 11 January that the judge at the
Didube-Chugureti district court likely to be assigned the case is Iosif
Chkheidze.

Makharadze identified the articles of the criminal code in the case against
Mkalavishvili and Ivanidze as Articles 125, 150, 155, 160 and 226. He
added that a further criminal case was being prepared against other
members of Mkalavishvili's group of supporters.

Tevdoradze reported that she had passed all the complaints from religious
minorities sent to her office onto the prosecutor. She said she had
repeatedly complained about police and procuracy inaction - and about
the failure of President Eduard Shevardnadze to take action. "I have been
fighting about this for three years," she declared. She complained in
particular that the police had repeatedly failed to prevent Mkalavishvili
from leaving his home, where he is required to remain under the court
supervision order. However, she said the minority faiths themselves could
have done more. "They should have responded more strongly. They are
too afraid of causing conflict with the Patriarchate."

Many remain sceptical that Mkalavishvili will face justice, despite the
promised court hearings. �The authorities have never condemned
religious intolerance clearly, without equivocation,�
Emil Adelkhanov of the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Development and
Democracy complained to Keston. �After several excesses, none of [the
culprits] has ever been punished; they will go on like that as long as they
are sure of their impunity.� (END)

Copyright (c) 2002 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.