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Opposition calls on Saakashvili to ve to amendments on religious groups’ law

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.messenger.com.ge/issues/2393_july_7_2011/2393_mzia.html Opposition calls on Saakashvili to veto amendments on religious groups’ law By Mzia
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 7, 2011

      Opposition calls on Saakashvili to veto amendments on religious groups’ law
      By Mzia Kupunia
      Thursday, July 7

      The Georgian Patriarchate and some of the opposition have slammed
      changes made to the Georgian Civil Code on Tuesday, envisaging giving
      permission to the religious minority groups in Georgia to register as
      legal entities of public law in Georgia. In its second statement for the
      last two days, the Georgian Orthodox Church authorities said the
      officials and the Patriarchate representatives held a meeting on July 5,
      however the sides failed to reach an agreement over the issue.

      “The newly adopted law contradicts with the interests of the Church, as
      well as the interests of the country,” the Patriarchate’s statement
      reads “we think that this law will bring negative results in the nearest
      future and the government is responsible for this,” it continues.

      According to the amendments to the civil code, the religious faiths in
      Georgia will get a status of legal entities of public law. Currently
      they hold a status of private entity of public law. However, several
      amendments have been applied to the final version of the draft package.
      The final version of the law does not include a list of the faiths which
      are able to get a new status. The previous draft amendments package
      included the Armenian Apostolic Church, Roman Catholic Church,
      Evangelical Baptist Church, as well as Muslim and Jewish communities as
      the ones eligible to receive a legal entity of public law status. The
      newly adopted amendments define that all religious groups, having
      “historic links” with Georgia, as well as the religious confessions
      which have such a status in the Council of Europe member states, will be
      able to get a new status.

      Another difference between the first and the last version of the
      amendments is that there is no indication in the adopted law that the
      Georgian state takes responsibility to hold negotiations with other
      states about the status and protection of Georgian churches abroad. This
      was one of the points actively demanded by the Patriarchate and the
      opposition representatives. The newly adopted law does not include a
      paragraph about carrying out additional activities in terms of
      protection of the Georgian churches on occupied territories.

      Some of the opposition politicians have called on the Georgian President
      to veto the newly passed amendments. Leader of the Free Democrats,
      Irakli Alasania criticized the ruling party lawmakers for adopting the
      changes to the civil code without preliminary multisided discussions on
      the matter. “I call on Mikheil Saakashvili to use a right to veto and
      not to sign a hasty decision made by a single-party parliament,”
      Alasania said. The young wing of Alasania’s party also supported his
      position. Leader of the Young Free Democrats, Sulkhan Ghlonti said the
      National Movement Party has “humiliated” the Georgian Patriarch by
      adopting a new law. “The solution to this situation is vetoing this law
      and starting public discussions,” Ghlonti said “We support defending
      interests of all religious groups in the Georgian legislation, however
      this should not be happening without considering the proposals of the
      society, the Patriarchate and the representatives of the religious
      groups,” he added.

      Georgia’s Labour Party has also demanded vetoing the newly adopted
      amendments. One of the leaders of the opposition party, Giorgi Gugava
      said the new law could bring the “heaviest results.” “This is an
      anti-state and anti-religious war, which aims at triggering religious
      and ethnic hatred between the peoples,” he said at a special press
      conference on Wednesday “against this background, dictator Saakashvili
      is trying to portray himself to the Western society as a liberal ruler
      and convince them that he should stay in power.”

      According to the Georgian legislation, the amendments to the Civil Code
      should be sent to the President in 7 days and the President should sign
      the document in 10 days time. The amendments come in to force as soon as
      President signs the amendments.
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