[QODLink]
Europe
Georgia police disperse opposition protest
Injuries reported as authorities move in with tear gas and truncheons to break up demonstration.
Last Modified: 25 May 2011 22:45

Georgian riot police have forcibly dispersed several hundred opposition protesters from outside the parliament building in central Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

The protesters, part of a larger group, had gathered in the early hours of Thursday demanding the resignation of Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president.

Several thousand people had marched on parliament earlier, accusing Saakashvili of authoritarianism and vowing to stop a showpiece military parade to mark Georgia's Independence Day.

But only 300 remained outside the parliament in the early hours of Thursday when police moved in, using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse the group.

Emergency workers were tending to several people with blood on their faces, according to a reported from the Reuters news agency who was at the scene.

Shota Utiashvili, the Georgian interior ministry spokesman, said a total of 19 people - police and protesters - were hospitalised with minor injuries.

Nino Burjanadze, who leads the Georgian opposition party Democratic Movement, said the number of injured people was a result of police actions.

"There a lot of injured people because the authorities conducted ... a punitive operation. It was not an action aimed at as they say to ‘free the square,’ it was purely a punitive operation," she said.

According to Utiashvili, a policeman died in hospital after being hit by a vehicle in a convoy of cars rushing Burjanadze away from the scene, where riot police used teargas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse protesters.

Utiashvili said that Burjanadze and her husband were rushing to leave the scene in a convoy of five jeeps. One of the vehicles from their convoy hit a police officer who later died later at hospital.

There was no suggestion that Burjanadze or her spouse were behind the wheel of the vehicle in question.

Nona Gaprindashvili, an opposition leader, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying that dozens of demonstrators were arrested, but there were no immediate official figures.

Opponents accuse pro-Western Saakashvili of monopolising power since the 2003 "Rose Revolution" that ousted the post-Soviet old guard in the Caucasus state, where pipelines carry Caspian oil to the West.

Weakened by losing a brief war with Russia in August 2008, Saakashvili has since reasserted control. He is due to step down as president in 2013 when his term ends.

Georgia celebrates its independence day on Thursday.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lacking cohesive local ground forces to attack in tandem, coalition air strikes will have limited effect, experts say.
Hindu right-wing groups run campaign against what they say is Muslim conspiracy to convert Hindu girls into Islam.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
Muslim caretakers maintain three synagogues in eastern Indian city, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community.
Amid fresh ISIL gains, officials in Anbar province have urged the Iraqi government to request foreign ground troops.