Abkhazia: confessing to a "crime" as a form of protest
Protest in Abkhazia
Opposition leaders and supporters in Abkhazia have resorted to an unusual form of protest against the arrests of participants in an opposition rally – they write statements to the prosecutor’s office admitting that they also participated in it.
On January 13, a trial was held to select a measure of restraint for two individuals suspected of committing crimes during the December 21 protests. The court ruled in favour of a 20 day prison sentence for Bagrat Surmava and 30 day term for Anrik Inapshba.
The latter, in protest, even swallowed nails in the courtroom with the words: “Here you are!” and instead of the pre-trial detention center, was taken to a hospital.
Earlier, five people were arrested by a court decision for participating in an opposition rally and clashes with government officials. This has never happened before in the modern history of the republic.
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An hour after the incident at the court session, opposition leader Adgur Ardzinba arrived at the prosecutor’s office of the city of Sukhum with a demand to detain him as the organizer of the protest on December 21, 2021 and to release the ‘detained children’.
Politician Akhra Bzhaniya and MP Harry Kokaya arrived there with the same demand. In their confessions addressed to the prosecutor of the city of Sukhum, they admitted that they also took part in the rally on December 21 and asked the authorities to take procedural measures against them.
Soon the number of oppositionists began to increase and supporters began to approach the prosecutor’s office in order to submit similar confessions.
The prosecutor of the city of Sukhum, Alkhas Agumava, told reporters at 20:00 that 10 people had already come to confess, and are now under interrogation, including deputy Givi Kvarchia, politician Akhra Bzhaniya, deputy Garry Kokay and opposition leader Adgur Ardzinba. Lawyer Inga Gabilaya is also present during the interrogation.
The prosecutor noted that there are not enough investigators to handle the cases. The accepted statements are still of a formal nature, whether there will be detentions and whether a criminal case will be opened against those individuals will be determined only after the results of the interrogation.
Thus, 10 applications have been registered, more than 50 have been submitted. On the street, the collection of a collective declaration of surrender continued.
Closer to the night it became known that the prosecutor’s office still refused to detain the authors of the confessions, citing the absence of the body of crime in their actions.
As it became known from the lawyer Inga Gabilai, who, during the interrogation, represented the interests of Adgur Ardzinba, her client was interrogated exclusively as a witness in the case. After midnight opposition leader Adgur Ardzinba went to meet with Vice President Badra Gumba. The president is not in Abkhazia now – according to the statement of the press service, he is undergoing treatment in Russia.
As a result, Ardzinba said that mutual understanding had been reached and that some kind of bilateral document between the authorities and the opposition might still be signed. Those gathered at the prosecutor’s office also dispersed after midnight.
Opinion: Opposition could have acted more efficiently
Journalists and social media users have already commented on the new tactics of the opposition.
“I like the idea of coming to the investigating authorities en masse, but there is a nuance. No one has confessed of organizing the rally, only participating in it. No one was detained for participation in the rally by the prosecutor’s office. The investigation blames the detainees for specific episodes related to the rocking of buses, damaging metal with wire cutters on metal, etc.”, writes journalist Eleonora Giloyan.
Therefore, in her opinion, it was initially obvious that the interrogations would end in vain, since law enforcement officers would not see the corpus delicti in a mere participation in the rally. Therefore, it was necessary for oppositions member to admit doing exactly what the detained activists are accused of:
“And it was worth it, of course, to do this, for the same number of people to come, confess and bring the situation to complete absurdity. To have more people claiming they used wire cutters and chains that night. They could also say, that they all rocked the bus together, thus making sure th`at there would be more of those who rocked the bus than the actual participants in the rally that evening. And that would be a completely different story”.