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Georgian Republic government declares state of emergency in face of protests

[JURIST] The government of the Republic of Georgia [official backgrounder] has declared a state of emergency following days of protests in the capital city of Tbilisi, according to a televised speech Wednesday. Reading a prepared statement, Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli [official profile] announced a presidential decree temporarily banning demonstrations and public calls for violence or government overthrow. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili [official website], a US ally, has blamed Russian spy agencies for instigating the protests; Russia dismissed the claims as an attempt to distract from domestic turmoil. The presidential decree will be submitted to the Georgian Parliament [official website, in Georgian] for approval in the next two days, per the republic's constitution [text]. So far several hundred demonstrators have been injured as police used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests calling for election changes and for Saakashvili's resignation. Also Wednesday, police shut down independent television station Imedi, which had aired opposition statements and showed footage of police violence at the protests.

In August, a Georgian court sentenced 12 opposition activists [JURIST report] to prison terms of up to eight-and-a-half years for participating in a coup plot that Saakashvili alleged was backed by Russia. Saakashvili has allied himself closely with the US and NATO since taking office in 2004, and Georgian authorities alleged that the convicted opposition activists had been supported by the Russian security services. Georgian-Russian relations have deteriorated markedly [JURIST report] in the last year. AP has more. The International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.

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