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Adjar Authorities Break Up Protests As Tensions Increase


http://gdb.rferl.org/D4DD9297-CE72-4E94-901B-05559E5490E4_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/D4DD9297-CE72-4E94-901B-05559E5490E4_mw800_mh600.jpg Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze defiant 4 May 2004 -- Authorities in Georgia's autonomous region of Adjaria today broke up a protest rally in the regional capital Batumi, as tensions increased between the regional and central governments.

Local news reports said armed men beat protestors and used water cannons to break up the gathering of some 200 people outside Ajara's main university.

A demonstrator who gave his first name as Achiko and who was protesting against the policies of Ajaran leader Aslan Abashidze, said in Batumi today.

"They [security forces] were beating people on the head. I saw people with bleeding heads and some were nearly unconscious. I saw some women with blood on their faces. After they dispersed our demonstration, these madmen [security forces] went to the offices of the 'Our Adjaria' [opposition] movement and they demolished everything. Not a single window was left unbroken. The situation in Batumi remains very tense," he said.

The demonstration took place shortly after Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze declared a state of emergency and a curfew in the region and closed all schools and universities for two weeks. Abashidze rejected the Georgian government's deadline of 12 May for him to reform, and said he intends to treat any acts of opposition in Adjaria "with utmost severity."

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has threatened to dissolve the local institutions in Adjaria and order new elections if Adjaria fails to disarm militias and recognize Georgian authority.

(Reuters/AP)
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