Georgian Police have released the head of a LGBT organisation following his arrest in an allegedly homophobic raid on the group’s offices earlier this month.
According to reports, on December 15 the office of Inclusive Foundation was raided by numerous armed men without uniform. The leaders of the organisation, together with about 15 community members of the ‘Women’s Club’, were present in the office.
The head of the organisation, Paata Sabelashvili was taken to a separate room. The men did not provide a search warrant, did not identify themselves and did not explain the purpose of their intrusion.
Cell phones were reportedly confiscated and women were locked up in a room for several hours. They were not allowed to contact their families. They were also humiliated by being called “perverts”, “sick persons” and “Satanists”.
Members were allegedly threatened that they would be killed if they did not stop demanding search warrants and other official documents.
Sabelashvili, who is also a board member of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), was arrested during the raid. He apparently confessed to the possession of eight grams of marijuana.
ILGA-Europe said in a statement that it was shocked by the conduct of the Georgian police, which it claimed had clearly homophobic motives.
“The information we have received from Georgia indicates that the police acted disproportionately and completely ignored the basic rule of law,” said Linda Freimane, Co-Chair of the Executive Board of ILGA-Europe.
Sabelashvili was finally released last week after two weeks in detention and is said to be recovering from his ordeal. It is unclear what charges will be pressed against him.
While ILGA said that it was pleased with the activist’s release it still had serious concerns about the matter.
“There are a few questions still to be answered by the Georgian authorities. We are concerned that the raid on the office of the Inclusive Foundation which took place on 15 December 2009 was disproportionate and humiliating,” said Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board.
“The other worry is that Georgian police still monitor the office and that other leaders of the Inclusive Foundation, Tinatin Japaridze and Eka Agdgomelashvili, continue to be under police surveillance. We call on the Georgian authorities to immediately end intimidation and any surveillance of the Inclusive Foundation office and its staff.”