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Georgian Muslims Protest Minaret Removal

Hundreds of Georgian Muslims have gathered in Tbilisi to protest the removal of a mosque's minaret in the Samtskhe-Javakheti province.

Local authorities removed the minaret in the village of Chela on August 26.

A group of Muslims tried to block the work, but police forcefully dispersed the protesters, arresting 21 of them.

The Finance Ministry said the minaret was removed for inspection to verify if the materials used to build it were properly declared when they were imported into Georgia from Turkey in July.

The grand mufti of the Georgian Muslims' Directorate, Jemal Paksadze, condemned the minaret's removal, calling it a violation of Georgian citizens’ rights.

Paksadze is based in the capital of Georgia's southeastern Autonomous Republic of Ajara.

Members of his directorate arrived in Tbilisi to lead the protest there on August 27.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Georgian and Russian services

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