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Gay rights activists rally in front of the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi. (file photo)

TBILISI -- The U.S. State Department and Amnesty International have called on the Georgian authorities to guarantee the safety of participants in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) "Tbilisi Pride" activities that have been scheduled this week in the capital.

The precautions must be taken in the face of "unprecedented threats of violence, including from homophobic groups," Amnesty, a London-based human rights watchdog, said in a statement on June 18.

Amnesty, which said it will send an international monitoring team to the events, said that "Georgian officials have a positive obligation to take all necessary measures to protect the Tbilisi Pride march from attacks."

The State Department said the "United States will continue to urge Georgian authorities to protect all citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

It said the United States was "deeply concerned about reported threats targeting" the LGBT community ahead of a planned Pride parade and that "we categorically condemn the persecution of individuals for any reason, including their sexual orientation or gender identity."

'March Of Dignity'

Georgia's first-ever Tbilisi Pride week, set for June 18-23, has a series of events scheduled in the capital, including theatrical performances and an international conference. It is expected to culminate in a "March of Dignity" parade, organizers said.

The event in the conservative South Caucasus nation comes six years after a rally against homophobia was disrupted by a crowd of religious figures and thousands of protesters in 2013, with some participants being beaten and most forced to flee for their safety.

Earlier this month, Georgian police detained at least eight people as conservative activists faced off with gay and lesbian protesters who rallied outside a government building demanding more support and protection from government officials.

Several Orthodox priests marched with signs reading: "If homosexuals do not repent, they all go to hell."

The head of Georgia's Orthodox Church demanded that activists call off the Pride events, saying they would offend Georgian society and would provoke violence from opponents.

Homophobic Threats

Amnesty also cited threats from "a homophobic group led by a local businessman who has close links to the Georgian Orthodox Church," which the watchdog said, "is planning a violent counterdemonstration to stop the Tbilisi Pride march from going ahead."

Tbilisi Pride promoters said in a statement that "despite the existing risks, the first 'March of Dignity' in the history of Georgia is in force and we are not going to cancel it."

On June 18, a group of 14 Georgian civil society organizations called on the country's leaders and the Ministry of Interior to investigate threats against the LGBT community and to take "preventative measures" to allow participants to exercise their freedom of expression during Pride week.

Georgia has passed antidiscrimination laws in an effort to move closer to the European Union, but homophobia remains widespread, LGBT rights groups have said.

Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze has denied that gay people face discrimination in the country, telling a news conference that LGBT culture was being forced on Georgian society to heighten tensions.

With reporting by Reuters, Georgia Today, VOA, and
Journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev (file photo)

MAKHACHKALA, Russia -- A court in Russia's North Caucasus region of Daghestan has sent a reporter working for an independent newspaper to pretrial detention after being accused of financing terrorism, a charge his editors call absurd.

A court in the regional capital, Makhachkala, on June 18 ordered that Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev be held in pretrial detention for two months, his lawyer Arsen Magomedov told journalists, adding that his client denied the charge at the hearing.

Gadzhiyev, who is a reporter for the newspaper, Chernovik, was detained on June 14 after police searched his home, seizing computers and mobile phones. They also charged him with helping to collect funds for the extremist group Islamic State.

The Daghestani-based Chernovik issued a statement on its website dismissing the charges and comparing the case with that of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov in Moscow.

Golunov was arrested on June 6 in the Russian capital for allegedly attempting to sell illegal drugs. He was released on June 11 after the charges were dropped following a public outcry.

As a reporter for the Latvia-based Russian online news site Meduza, Golunov had gained renown for investigating corruption among top Moscow city officials and others.

Meduza’s editors and others said Golunov’s arrest may have been specifically due to his reporting.

Editors of Chernovik say Gadzhiyev’s case is similar.

“It’s about the same thing as planting drugs on Ivan Golunov in Moscow. If someone needs to be imprisoned, and if he is a bit involved in religious activities, then a reason can always be found.”

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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