Protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili after the death of 37-year-old Alexander Lashkarava. The cameraman was “found dead at home by his mother” on Sunday, six days after he was severely beaten by protesters who tried to block an LGBTQ pride event in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, his employer, TV Pirveli, reported.
Lashkarava suffered “multiple facial fractures” when he was attacked while covering counter-demonstrations in Tbilisi against a Pride event called March for Dignity with fellow journalist Miranda Bagaturia, TV Pirveli commercial director Nana Aburjanidze told CNN on Sunday.
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The event was canceled when violent protesters stormed the offices of some LGBTQ campaign groups before the march began, Aburjanidze said.
Garibashvili responded to Lashkarava’s death by referring to the protesters as “anti-state and anti-church forces” who are politicizing the incident.
“It was another failed conspiracy against the state, devised by anti-state and anti-church forces, that failed in our country and will never be successful. We have all seen this person’s tragedy used for their own political agenda,” he said, according to the AFP news agency.
“An appropriate forensic investigation is planned, at the initiative of the family of the deceased and at the request of the television company, an independent expert will be involved in the process and all questions will be fully answered in the shortest possible time,” he said. said.
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili visited Lashkarava’s family on Sunday and said the matter should be investigated.
53 journalists attacked
TV Pirveli’s Aburjanidze said Lashkarava died after being hospitalized and undergoing surgery for nearly a week.
“He was given the medical treatment he had to do at home. He visited our office on Friday and said the pain was very bad. He was on a talk show during the day talking about the incident and demanded justice,” Aburjanidze said.
“He was too young to die. This is shocking, just unbearable. I don’t know the words that would describe the pain we are going through right now,” she said.
Aburjanidze also claimed that Lashkarava’s body “was taken away by so-called ‘experts’ without the family’s permission.”
“They actually kidnapped the body,” she said.
CNN has contacted the Georgian police and the Interior Ministry for comment on these allegations, but has not received a response.
The statement said counter-protesters “deliberately attacked the media representatives, abused them physically and verbally and deliberately destroyed their equipment to hinder their journalistic activities”.
“Insufficient police forces have not taken steps to protect the journalists,” the statement said, adding that cases related to violations of journalists’ rights had “reached a critical level”.
Lashkarava’s death was also confirmed by Georgia’s interior ministry, which said in a statement it had launched an investigation under Article 115 of the country’s criminal code.
“The investigation is ongoing into the fact of unlawful interference in the journalist’s professional activities under threat of violence, persecution of violence, or threat of violence and gang violence, within the framework (sic) of which already 4 persons have been detained,” , the statement added.
Giorgi Tabagari, director of Tbilisi Pride, told CNN on Sunday: “The fifth of July was a really, really tragic day for Georgian democracy. I would say it was a day when the police and (the) system allowed this pogrom in the streets. of Tbilisi and actually did nothing to stop the violence.”
Tabagari said on July 5 that “it got so out of hand” that we lost the life of the cameraman just doing his job.
CNN’s Amy Woodyatt contributed to this report.
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