Europe

Georgians protest over death of journalist beaten in attack on LGBT+ supporters

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TV channel Pirveli cameraman Alexander Lashkarava is seen after being beaten when the violent group attacked LGBT+ activists and journalists last Monday, in Tbilisi, Georgia in this still image obtained from a video on July 11, 2021. TV PIRVELI/Handout via REUTERS

TBILISI, July 11 (Reuters) - A cameraman, one of several journalists beaten during attacks on LGBT+ activists in Tbilisi this week, has been found dead, TV Piveli said on Sunday, as hundreds took to the streets of Georgia's capital calling on the authorities to punish those responsible.

LGBT+ campaigners in the South Caucasus country of Georgia called off a pride march on Monday after violent groups opposed to the event stormed and ransacked their office in Tbilisi and targeted activists and journalists.

Cameraman Alexander Lashkarava, who was beaten up in the incident, was found dead at his home by his mother, TV Pirveli, the channel he worked for, said on Sunday. It did not disclose the cause of death.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the parliament and the office of ruling party Georgian Dream on Sunday to call for the prime minister and interior minister to resign over the violence and Lashkarava's death.

A woman splashed red paint on the door of a government building in protest.

Lashkarava's death has outraged human rights activists in Georgia, who blame the authorities for emboldening hate groups and failing to keep journalists and LGBT+ supporters out of harm's way.

The interior ministry said it was investigating Lashkarava's death, but did not say what caused it. The ministry said later that Lashkarava's "professional activities were illegally obstructed by threats of violence" during the attacks on LGBT+ supporters.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili wrote on Twitter on Sunday that she had visited Lashkarava's family.

"What happened is a tragedy and I send my condolences to the entire media community and to all of Georgia," she wrote. "It must be investigated and those responsible must be punished."

More than 50 journalists were targeted in the violence, police said on Monday, prompting Western countries to call on Georgia to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.

The planned pride march, which was called off before it began, had prompted criticism from the church and conservatives, while Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said the march risked causing public confrontation.

Reporting by David Chkhikvishvili; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Jane Merriman

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