Violent mob ransacks the head office of Georgia’s main opposition party — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Violent mob ransacks the head office of Georgia’s main opposition party

The Tbilisi offices of Georgia’s largest opposition party, the liberal and pro-Western United National Movement (UNM), were ransacked by a mob of unidentified individuals in what appears to have been a coordinated attack, the party said on Facebook on Saturday.

The post claimed that about 100 people took part in the attack, ransacking the facilities, destroying property and smashing the building’s windows. The UNM accused Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of the ruling Georgia Dream party, of being behind the “vandalous attack”, which it said had been in response to the UNM “protecting the interests of Georgia and standing by the Georgian people”.

In a video posted by UNM Chairman Levan Khabeishvili that was taken shortly after the attack, the camera pans over a row of shattered windows and people can be heard shouting inside the building.

Khabeishvili said that the attackers had been armed with stones, sticks and wooden spears, while other witnesses said that bats and iron rods were also used. The police took an hour to arrive at the scene, Khabeishvili said, despite the nearest police station being less than 2 kilometres from the UNM office.

The UNM, which was founded by the now imprisoned former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, boycotted a vote to override a presidential veto on the controversial “foreign agents” law on Tuesday.

The law, which requires non-governmental organisations that receive more than 20% of their income from abroad to register as “foreign agents”, was finally pushed through parliament last month by the ruling Georgian Dream party amid massive street protests in Tbilisi.

Known in Georgia as the “Russian law” due to its resemblance to a similar Russian law that has been used to stigmatise organisations and individuals critical of the government, the law has been criticised by both the United States and European Union, with the latter warning that its passage could derail Georgia’s EU membership aspirations.

Saturday’s attack was not the first time opposition figures and anti-government protesters in Georgia have been set upon by violent mobs; on a single night in May, at least four opposition members who spoke out against the foreign agent law were violently assaulted by masked assailants.

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