|3,000 rally to mark protests|
|June 09, 2009|
TBILISI - ABOUT 3,000 opposition supporters rallied in the Georgian capital on Tuesday to mark the two-month anniversary of protests aimed at ousting President Mikheil Saakashvili.
The protesters gathered outside parliament and then marched on to the interior ministry and the prosecutor general's office where they formed a human chain around the buildings.
Opposition leaders vowed to continue protests, which have twice erupted into violence, until Saakashvili steps down.
Tuesday's protest was directed against what the opposition says is a 'police state.' 'Justice and law are non-existent in Georgia. Saakashvili turned Georgia into a police state,' said opposition leader Nino Burjanadze, a former speaker of parliament.
The protests have been held daily since April 9 and on several occasions have attracted tens of thousands of opposition supporters.
Protesters have also been blocking streets in the centre of the capital with mock jail cells, but in the last week have significantly reduced the number of blocked areas.
Opponents accuse Saakashvili of having mishandled a five-day war with Russia last August and of having become increasingly autocratic since coming to power after the peaceful 2003 Rose Revolution. Talks between Saakashvili and opposition leaders last month failed to resolve the deadlock.
The protests have raised fears of unrest in Georgia, which has seen frequent political violence since gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Clashes between police and the opposition broke out twice last month.
On May 6 police used batons and fired plastic bullets to repel protesters throwing rocks and sticks as they attempted to climb over a fence around a detention centre where three opposition activists were being held.
On May 29 dozens of police and protesters armed with sticks clashed near parliament, leaving several people injured.
Copyright (c) 2009 AFP. All rights reserved
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