Environment Ministry rejects misinformation over selling forest in western Georgia, says “no reason to hold protests”

  • Yesterday, the protesters demanded the cancellation of the licence issued in 2022 over Racha forest at the rally outside the Environment Ministry, where law enforcement officers had detained 11 individuals for administrative offences. Photo via Georgia's Environmental Protection Ministry

Agenda.ge, 19 Nov 2023 - 12:48, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia's Environmental Protection Ministry on Saturday issued a statement, rejecting misinformation over selling the forest in western Georgia’s Racha region, and noting there was “no reason to hold protests” over the matter after citizens held a rally outside the Ministry yesterday.

The Ministry said it had given out a licence on the forest, which “did not mean the sale” but implied the establishment of a hunting farm with more than ₾5 million (about $1.8) allocated for the development of the region and the employment of the locals within the project.

The statement said the cancellation process of the issued permit had started in May due to non-fulfilment of the licence conditions, stressing the Ministry had already explained the mentioned process to the participants of the rally and also disseminated the information to the media.

The issue of declaring the hunting licence invalid will be considered in accordance with the law, within the relevant time frame”, the body added.

The Ministry explained that reselling or gifting the mentioned licence was not possible without an agreement with the National Environment Agency, adding there has been no such appeal to the Agency.

Yesterday, the protesters demanded the cancellation of the licence issued in 2022 over Racha forest at the rally outside the Environment Ministry, where law enforcement officers had detained 11 individuals for administrative offences.

In its statement yesterday, the Interior Ministry said despite “numerous appeals” from the police to the organisers and participants of the protest rally not to exceed the scope of the freedom of assembly and expression, the protesters had violated public order.

Following the arrests, the Georgian Public Defender Levan Ioseliani on Sunday said his office had started studying the case, and noted the detainees had been already visited by his representative. 

He also called on the Interior Ministry to immediately release the journalist, detained at the scene, as he had been performing his professional duties and urged the Special Investigation Service to respond “appropriately” to the interference in journalistic activities.

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