Wednesday, November 07, 2007
More Bad News for the Freedom Agenda
"Pakistani Police Beat Bhutto Supporters"
"Riot Police Disperse Georgian Protestors"
The Reuters report is even more dramatic in its headline: "Close U.S. ally Georgia descends into chaos."
The report, filed an hour ago, isn't pretty. It says, among other things:
"the main opposition television station Imedi said it had been stormed by Georgian special forces and went off the air. Imedi had been broadcasting extensive coverage of the opposition demonstrations.
Witnesses at the scene said armed police had forced staff to the floor, smashed equipment, destroyed mobile phones and put guns to employees' heads.
Earlier in the day, riot police armed with batons repeatedly clubbed and kicked unarmed demonstrators in Tbilisi, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the streets, reporters at the scene said."
It went on to say:
"Georgia's human rights ombudsman, Sozar Subari, told reporters he was among those beaten by police. "Although I told them that I am a defender of human rights, they told me 'This is precisely why the beating is so harsh'," he said.
Patriarch Ilia II, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, condemned the government crackdown as "completely unacceptable." "There is only one way -- negotiations," he said."
The standard response is to blame Moscow for the trouble. But "Opposition leaders, who have not questioned Saakashvili's pro-Western line, called the accusations baseless and laughable. "The Georgian people are already tired of Saakashvili's declarations, which always blame Russia" former Georgian foreign minister Salome Zurabishvili said. "What has this got to do with Russia ?""
What is going to be interesting to observe in the U.S. reaction is 1) this is taking place alongside the events in Pakistan and 2) official Tbilisi is making the same justifications that were presented by Moscow when it took harsh police measures against the "Other Russia" demonstrators this spring (e.g. demonstrators provoked police, they are being funded by outside agents, etc.)
For those interested, Anna Dolidze had commented earlier this week on developments in Georgia.
From the AP:
Saakashvili later declared a state of emergency in the capital. "An attempt to conduct a coup was made, and we had to react to that," said Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli, who announced the move.
Nogaideli said that the measure, effective immediately and banning rallies and calls for the government's ouster in the media, would be submitted to parliament for approval within 48 hours as required by the constitution.