"The guilty must be punished" - President of Georgia visits family of the deceased TV Pirveli cameraman
President of Georgia visited the family of the deceased cameraman Lekso Lashkarava
On July 11, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili visited the family of the deceased cameraman Lekso Lashkarava with condolences. He was found dead in his home this morning after being severely beaten on July 5 by radical groups during protests against the March of Dignity in Tbilisi.
Homophobic groups staged violence against journalists and civil society representatives on July 5 in the streets of the Georgian capital. They tried to interfere with the Pride March and targeted journalists. A total of 55 individuals were attacked, 53 of them were reporters and cameramen.
Lekso was attacked while filming in the offices of the Shame movement. The operator received severe injuries, the bones of his face were broken and he had to undergo surgery on the same day.
“I didn’t know what to say to the mother in this terrible situation. I visited him in the hospital and never thought that I would come here later to share this tragedy. I’m sure it shouldn’t stay that way. The perpetrators must be punished. I’m not the police, but I’m sure it’s necessary. I share this tragedy with the family, journalists and the whole society”, Salome Zurabishvili said.
On the evening of the violence in Tbilisi on July 5, the President issued a statement of categorical condemnation of the incident and visited the injured journalists in the hospital.
“This is completely unacceptable for me! This is not the Georgia that I know, this is not Georgian traditions, nor religion, nor the future that we want for this country”, the Georgian president said at the time.
Salome Zurabishvili was also the only state person in Georgia who, in connection with the March of Dignity, stated that everyone has the right to freely speak and express their opinion, and any form of violence, threats, pressure, and hate speech is unacceptable for her as a guarantor of the constitution.
Other leaders of the country, including Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze and Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party Irakli Kobakhidze, opposed the March of Dignity.
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On July 5, in Tbilisi, on the main Rustaveli Avenue, the March of Dignity was to be held as the final event of Pride Week. But instead, unprecedented violence by radical homophobic and ultra-right groups took place on the avenue all day.
For several hours, hundreds of radicals armed with stones and truncheons beat journalists and civic activists. They marched through different parts of Tbilisi, searched, smashed, and robbed the offices of non-governmental organizations and burned LGBT+ flags.
The EU flag was also publicly burned.
Opposition tents in front of parliament, which had stood there since October 2020, as a sign of political protest, were destroyed.
55 people, including 53 journalists, ended up in hospital after this pogrom. Homophobic groups then staged a celebration and dances in front of parliament.
Journalists and experts say the July 5 violence was initiated by the Georgian Patriarchate and provoked by the government. “These events should be regarded as a war against civil society, democracy and European values,” said non-governmental and journalistic organizations.
At this stage, it is known that 25 victims have been identified including 19 journalists and cameramen and 13 people have been detained.