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We Are Persecuted because of Islam – Evidence Exposing MIA

We Are Persecuted because of Islam – Evidence Exposing MIAEurope Champion in Wrestling Piruz Tsulukidze, 20, and his coach Temur Bakhuntaridze were arrested in Batumi on September 13. They were accused of resistance to police officers. Before detention, Tsulukidze and Bakhuntaridze claimed that MIA was persecuting them on religious grounds. MIA denied the accusation. ICK got hold of the evidence, which exposes the officers of the Counter-Terrorist Center in the oppression on the Muslim coach and his trainees.

 

On September 14, 2013, Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia spread statement on the detention of Piruz Tsulukidze, Temur Bakhuntaridze and Iusup Lakaev, 25-year-old citizen of Russian Federation.

According to the MIA, Counter-terrorist Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has received operative information that Piruz Tsulukidze was hiding Iusup Lakaev, citizen of Russian Federation, in his place of temporary residence located in Batumi. According to the information, Tsulukidze planned to assist the foreigner to depart to Turkey through illegal crossing of the Georgian state border. Temur Bakhuntaridze also assisted them.  When patrol police crew requested Lakaev to submit ID documents, the latter resisted them and fired several times to the direction of police officers. As a result of shooting three people were wounded, police officer among them.  Law enforcers detained offender along with two persons who accompanied him - Piruz Tsulukidze and Temur bakhuntaridze for resistance to the police officers. Batumi City Court sentenced the detainees to imprisonment. They were taken to the court in cloths with blood stains. Tsulukidze and Bakhutaridze do not admit the committed crime.

We are persecuted because of Islam – Interview several days before the detention

ICK interviewed Piruz Tsulukidze and Temur Bakhuntaridze several days before the detention. Both of them stated that MIA officers persecuted them on religious grounds.

Piruz Tsulukidze, Europe Champion in Wrestling: “I live in Batumi. I train sportsmen every day. People stop me for my religion in the street because I am wearing beard.

-Who stops you?

-Police officers, when they notice me walking in the street, they stop and ask me why I wear beard; whether I am Vahabist or not. Before going to the World Championship, I participated in the European Championship with beard; people from Federation always demanded to shave the beard but I did not. When I returned from the championship, the trainers warned me I would not go to the world championship unless I shave my beard and stop fasting. I just shortened my beard. I was going to participate in the World Championship and everything was ok. On August 10, at night, I was not allowed to travel to the world championship in Bulgaria because of my religion.

When we arrived at the airport and handed our bags, we went upstairs to the gate and produced my passport. A woman took my passport and delayed me for an hour. The boarding had already started. Somebody, who was boss, came and told me I could not travel to the championship because I was in the red circle and could not cross the border. I inquired about the reason; I said they could arrest me if I had committed a crime, but they did not clarify anything. They said simply you cannot go and that is all. Trainers called at the Wrestling Federation and they promised to find out everything. I changed the ticket. Next day, I personally called Luka Kurtanidze (President of the Wrestling Federation). Luka said he would find out. At about 2:00 pm he called me back and said I could not cross the border because I had contact with undesirable people for Georgia.

-Did not they name those people?

-I do not know, maybe they meant people whom they perceive as Vahabists. They did not name concrete people. Afterwards, the Federation announced that I had trauma though I did not.

-Were not you called to police?

-Short time ago I was called to police; I was at the training and could not go there. Many of my friends went there and police officers threatened them; that’s why they cannot go to the trainings together with me. They were warned – if they continued training and communication with me, they would face problems and be blocked everywhere.

-Were they Muslims too?

-Yes, they were

 

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Temur Bakhuntaridze, coach: “A month ago they first called me. They came and took me to the Batumi police office. They asked for a room in the police office and talked with me in the investigator’s room. They said I could continue training people but should stop religious lectures and appeals.

-Do you preach during trainings?

-After the training, at 5:30 pm it is time for prayers and some sportsmen stay, who are religious people and we continue discussion on religious topic. It is not violation at all. They said I had to stop it but I refused. The same happened twenty days later and they said I had to stop training of the sportsmen too. Of course, we could not agree on that because the gym is on the ground floor of my house. It is not state property and nobody could prohibit me anything. The same people had summoned me for the second time to the same police office. They do not work there. They introduced themselves as security service officers. Afterwards they started intimidation of my pupils and their parents. Namely, brothers Chelidze, who finally moved to Ukraine. They continued training there. My pupils are cousins Katamadzes, who did not come to the trainings afterwards. As for others, they still continue trainings.

-What can you say about Piruz Tsulukidze?

-During first interrogation, they mentioned Piruz Tsulukidze; as far as I know, his brother Rezo Tsulukidze was also summoned. On the same day, my son Gia Bakhuntaridze was also summoned to the police office; he had same problems. Everybody, whom I mentioned, tried to leave the country; they wanted to travel to Turkey due to their sport activities but some people from our religion were not allowed.

-What kind of religion? Do you have any connection with Vahabists?

-We are Muslims. They blame us in being Vahabists and growing up young people, for whom patriotism, flag and anthem of Georgia is not important. Of course I do not agree. I have personally participated in three wars in Georgia and because I wear beard nobody shall say that security officers, who questioned me, are better Georgians than I am.

-For what are you persecuted?

-Because of Islam. They do not hide it and openly declare.

-Did similar facts occur in the past too, before the government changed?

-We were delayed when crossing the border but nobody have ever demanded me to stop religious preaches and never imposed any restrictions on me.

 

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We appealed to the MIA and asked clarification why Piruz Tsulukidze was refused to leave Georgian territory on August 10. MIA did not send any clarification to us.

MIA did not reply to the petition of the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center either.

Piruz Tsulukidze – During detention they kicked us and then they beat us with buts shouting where your Allah is

Piruz Tsulukidze confirmed that Lakaev spent two nights in the flat he had rented.

“They called Temur Bakhuntaridze on the phone and asked to pay attention to the guest who had arrived to Georgia. We met him in Kobuleti. We took him to the flat where I lived with several other sportsmen. Lakaev spoke only Russian; I do not know language and we did not communicate with each other. I used to go home in the evenings and left in the morning. One afternoon, Temur and I took food to him. In the evening I noticed that Lakaev had gun and I told Temuri about it. He said Lakaev was already going to Turkey next day. On September 13, when we were going to take Lakaev to Sarpi custom office, I noticed police was chasing us. Temur asked him to get out of the car and take a taxi to get to the border. He said we already have problems with police and did not want to complicate situation. Lakaev got out of the car but before getting into the taxi, police stopped him and soon they started shooting. We were on the other side of the road; stopped car and got out of it. We saw that Lakaev was also shooting. Then a car crashed him and he dropped the gun. Initially they arrested him and then us. We did not run away, did not resist the police. They put hand-cuffs on us and pushed on the ground; then they started beating us with butt. Temuri and I were all in blood. Police officers were shouting: “Where is your Allah? Why is not he helping you?” “Where are Kakabadze and journalists, who held press-conferences for you?” One police officer told his colleagues uncuff his hands, let him run and we will shoot and kill him on the place. The second replied – we cannot do it, people are watching. Then they argued why people had gathered in the area and boss ordered others to clean the area. They were beating us during an hour before investigator came. When they crashed my head against the ground, I injured my forehead. Then they hit something in my head and broke it. They were standing on my neck. They were particularly aggressive towards Temuri, he even lost conscious,” Piruz Tsulukidze said.

Attorney of the Public Defender Giorgi Charkviani visited Temur Bakhuntaridze and Piruz Tsulukidze in the Batumi temporary detention setting before they were taken to Kutaisi prison. The Ombudsman’s attorney said both detainees had multiple injuries on the body that they had received during detention, the detainees claimed.

According to the information provided by the Batumi Emergency Medical Center, on September 14, administration of the temporary detention setting called ambulance three times. During the third visit, the doctors of the ambulance diagnosed Temur Bakhuntaridze had wound in the nape, brain concussion and was taken to Batumi central hospital. According to the documentation, after hospitalization, doctor neuro-surgeon concluded: closed trauma of the skull, brain concussion; the doctor prescribed medical treatment for Bakhuntaridze and he was sent back to the detention setting.

Temur Bakhuntaridze described details of the detention and spoke about inhuman treatment by the police officers. “When Lakaev was arrested, we were standing on the other side of the street. We did not run. They came and ordered to raise hands and turn back; we did. They ordered to lie down and we did. Many police officers rushed to us, pushed us down to the ground, put hand-cuffs and started scolding us. “Where is your Allah, now you will go to paradise…” they scolded us. One of them even said unfold his hands, let him run and we will shoot and kill him on the place. Tear off your t-shirt as if he resisted us. But second said, people are watching us and we cannot shoot him. They were beating us. The first shouted the second – take citizens away. One of the police officers was Temur Kvantaliani; he told me “go to human rights defenders and hold press-conferences;” “where are your Kakabadzes and journalists, why do not they help you?” Kvantaliani told me he expected to catch me somewhere; he asked where my people were and how I dared to blame him in the oppression. That person had met me twice and demanded different things. They were beating me, and dragged me away with my head on the ground. Then they started beating me with guns. They hit me in the head but I lost conscious for the second time and I recovered in the cell. Lawyer Paata Beridze came to the detention setting but I could not go downstairs because I was still unconscious.”

Audio-recording, which exposes officers of the Counter-Terrorist Center

Information Center of Kakheti got hold of an audio-recording, which exposes officer of the Counter-Terrorist Center Temur Bakhuntaridze in the oppression on religious grounds. The audio-footage lasts one hour and it was done in secret; the footage proves that before Bakhuntaridze’s detention, MIA office Kvantaliani categorically demanded him to stop training of wrestlers.

Some extracts from the audio-recording:

Temur Kvantaliani, MIA – Do you train sportsmen in your house?

Temur Bakhuntaridze, coach – yes I do

-How many trainees do you have?

-Now they are about 10-12; I cannot train more in the space

-I want to know their names?

-Whose names do you want? I do not remember all of them. Two of them are my neighbors; I do not remember their surnames. Their names are Ushangi and Jaba.

-Where do they live?

-They live here, in the neighborhood

-Do not you know surnames of your neighbors?

-why do I need it?

-Are you trainer at all?

-I was trainer and trained Chelidzes too but you warned them not to train with me; children are afraid and do not come.

-We did not tell them not to go to your trainings

-If you see a problem in it, then I will stop training of children.

-No, we just wanted to collect information. We want to know who your trainees are and what they do.

-how long will it last? Will you call me every week and ask who will join my team? I said that I am not breaching the law. I thought we had agreed on it. It is unpleasant if you call me every day and ask who has joined my team and who has left; who got scared and who continued.

-I wanted you not to hide their surnames

-do not I have right not to answer your question?

-Yes you have but…

-You want me to name their names to call and warn that I am terrorist, vahabist and they should not train with me, etc

-I want to be nice with you.

-I do not want to have bad relation with you either. Our past meeting was not pleasant. I did not like you calling my pupils and making them unwilling to go to the training.

-You should know one thing in advance. I know that you do not like coming here.

-Of course I do not like. Why should I like.

-I want you to know that we should have mutual understanding. Because it is necessary. Personally I do not have any interest in you but it is my obligation. I am talking to you in the name of our Center. When a trainer trains a pupil, they should go home after the training. Of course you can speak with them but when after training you continue meeting with them, people say that because of some influence or psychological moments they cannot refuse to attend these meetings and have to listen to you.

-So they complained that I try to influence them?

-Yes they said you have psychological influence on them. Now I want you to understand me correctly. We do not have similar conversations not only with you. We talk with everybody to find out what is really happening. The real picture is the following: children, who train with you, feel some kind estrangement from Georgian and national situation. I know they spend some time during and after trainings with you. I want you to give me a clear answer. These people live with us but think differently from Georgian citizens. I do not appreciate this fact.

-Temur, I want to repeat again that I do not compel anybody to stay there. But it is not true that they are under my influence, as you claim.

-We have made this conclusion after having talked with everybody.

-It is clear but I do not influence anybody. I can loudly declare it; I swear Allah that I am telling the truth.

-Maybe you are not Buddha but you have influence

-Do I have influence?

-yes, you are sort of person, who can influence people.

-I am not inviting or dragging anybody to my training course. They come, train and then leave. We finish trainings at 5 pm; at 5:30 pm we start prayers. Some of them go but others stay and wait for prayers. We pray together and then they go home. If you suggest me not to do it, I cannot promise you because I will never stop praying and teaching others what I learned from the Allah. And if it is crime, you can arrest me for it. If they told you different story, you cannot blame me in that because they might get afraid and told you wrong things.

-So if you do not want me to blame you, leave those children alone. Our suggestion and proposal is to stop training of children.

-So, when children come to the training today, I must tell them that we have stopped training?

-Yes, you can tell them because our suggestions relay on the stories told by the children; they believe that Georgia and Georgian citizenship is less important. For example, Chelidze and Tsulukidze said it.

-It is clear Temur. But I have told you that I am telling the truth. I will not stop preaching. If children do not come to me, I will not tell them to come. If they come and tell me that they are interested in my preaching, I will satisfy their interest. If they ask questions about topics different from the wresting, I will answer their questions.

-In short, is our suggestion clear to you? You should know that everything will not be like you want. I have told you what I wanted to say.

-you judge everything from your point of view.

-It is point of view of our Center.

Listen to the audio

On September 24, 2013 Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center petitioned to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office regarding the case of Piruz Tsulukidze and Temur Bakhuntaridze and requested:

Start independent and effective investigation on the necessity and proportionality of applied physical force by the police.

For institutional independence of investigation, we demand conduct of investigation by the prosecution as per Article 3 of the ECHR and Paragraph 2, Resolution#34 of July 7, 2013 of the Ministry of Justice.

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office has not yet launched investigation into the religion motivated persecution and inhuman treatment of Tsulukidze and Bakhuntaridze during detention.

Natia Danelishvili| Information Center of Kakheti

 

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