Plagued with brutal religious strife, the Georgia government has taken action to punish a priest who is charged with inciting violent attacks against religious minorities.
In late January, a court in Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet republic, sentenced a defrocked priest, Basil Mkalavishvili, to six years in prison for leading violent attacks against religious minorities and destruction of property.
According to the Human Rights Watch, Mkalavishvili has terrorized religious minorities in the country since 1999. A statement from the watchdog group released in January states that the priest led attacks against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Baptists and other religious minorities. Allegedly mobs organized by Mkalavishvili invaded religious services, beat congregants and ransacked or looted homes and property of religious minorities.
The Human Rights Watch suggests that the new government led by Mikheil Saakashvili and his National Movement Party, which was swept into power in 2004 following widespread protests over Eduard Shevadnadze’s manipulation of elections, has played an important role in finally bring about Mkalavishvili’s conviction.