UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Mary Lawler, has responded to the attack on the Balda Canyon guards.

“Very concerned by the violent attack on the protest camp near Balda Canyon in Georgia. 2 people injured, 1 needing surgery.

I warned of attacks on local human rights defenders in my country visit report and call on the state to ensure their safety and resolve the conflict in the area, Mary Lawler wrote on social network X.

On June 11, late in the evening, in the village of Balda in Martvili, local residents gathered in a tent were attacked while protesting the illegal alienation of unique Balda canyon, a cause they had been supporting for over seven months. Before assaulting the tent, brothers Gela and Giga Khurtsilavas, armed with knives and firearms, injured two individuals. Mindia Bzhalava, aged 33, was transported to Kutaisi hospital by emergency medical services, where she underwent surgery for wounds to her face, head, throat, back, and chest. Additionally, 32-year-old Archil Bzhalava sustained injuries during the incident.

The prosecutor's office charged Gela Khurtsilava with attempted murder, group threats, and violence, offenses punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison, while Giga Khurtsilava faces charges of making threats, which carries a maximum sentence of 3 years. Senaki court ordered both brothers to be placed in pretrial detention as a precautionary measure.

In a separate development, Martvili police arrested 30-year-old Indiko Bzhalava, a member of the "To Preserve Balda Canyon" movement, on charges of making threats. This action followed a complaint filed by Gela Khurtsilava's wife with the police. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, their investigation revealed that Indiko Bzhalava had allegedly threatened to kill the woman due to an ongoing conflict between them. On June 14, the Senaki district court also ordered the arrest of Indiko Bzhalava. Apart from the statement made by the woman identified as the victim in the case, there is testimony from a sole witness. This witness now asserts that their testimony was manipulated by the Martvili police investigator and that they did not claim Indiko Bzhalava had threatened anyone with murder. Mtis Ambebi is preparing an in-depth report on this matter.

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