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Jehovah's Witnesses tell of brutal attack by extremists
Reuters, May 4, 2001
TBILISI, Georgia -- Orthodox extremists armed with nail-studded clubs raided a meeting of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Georgian capital this week and beat worshipers, a spokesman for the faith said Wednesday.
Around 40 attackers, some masked, burst into the meeting in a private house in a Tbilisi suburb Monday and set upon the 80-strong group of Jehovah's Witnesses, said Christian Presber.
Human rights groups said the incident was part of a campaign of violence against religious minorities in Orthodox Georgia. They say police have turned a blind eye.
The Jehovah's Witnesses--who say they have suffered dozens of similar raids--released photographs showing victims with welts and bruises on their faces, arms and chests. Tbilisi police confirmed the attack took place but said they did not intervene.
"These attacks have been going on for more than a year," said Levan Ramishvili, director of the Tbilisi-based Institute of Liberty, an independent civil rights group. "It's basically a witch hunt. but police and security forces do nothing about it."
Like its counterpart in Russia, Georgia's Orthodox Church is unhappy about inroads made by other faiths. Orthodox Patriarch Ilya II told parishioners to stay away from Roman Catholic masses in Tbilisi when Pope John Paul II visited in 1999.
Defrocked Orthodox priest Basil Mkalavishvili has led a vociferous campaign to ban other faiths. In March, Mkalavishvili and his supporters held up a truck carrying blankets and Baptist literature and burned all the books in full view of police, newspapers reported.
» Terrorizing Religious Minorities Violence Against Alternative Religions and the Betrayal of Orthodox Christianity. By the Southwest Institute for Orthodox Studies.
Foremost among those groups who are committing violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses and others are the followers of Fr. Vasily Mkalavishvili, who professes to be the leader of the true Orthodox Church in Georgia. Mkalavishvili's actions, combined with support in the United States for his movement, necessitates an examination of the validity of Mkalavishvili's claims about Jehovah's Witnesses, the propriety of his actions, and the validity of the ostensibly Orthodox defense for these actions.
» Georgia: Religious Minorities Face Escalating Violence, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 14, 2001