Home World Protesters in Georgia demand punishment for woman accused of defacing Stalin icon

Protesters in Georgia demand punishment for woman accused of defacing Stalin icon

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A large protest was held in Tbilisi on Saturday to demand harsh punishment for a woman accused of defacing a religious icon depicting Josef Stalin which was recently-installed in the Georgian capital, as tensions over the incident remained high.

The woman is alleged to have splashed paint on the icon, which was on display in the city’s main Holy Trinity Cathedral, on Tuesday in an act of protest that exposed deep divisions in Georgia over the former Soviet dictator’s legacy in his homeland.

Thousands of Orthodox believers and supporters of the Alt-Info pro-Russian ultra-conservative movement gathered on Saturday in front of the country’s parliament before matching through the city in the direction of the cathedral.

The crowd – observed by the police – was addressed by a speaker complaining about the attack on the icon. A Reuters reporter estimated the crowd to be up to 3,000-strong.

A Georgian nationalist party, called the Alliance of Patriots, which has also expressed pro-Russian views, said it had gifted the icon to the cathedral.

A side panel of the icon includes a depiction of the Georgian-born Stalin – an avowed atheist who violently repressed religion across the Soviet Union – being blessed by St Matrona of Moscow, a Russian Orthodox saint, during World War Two.

The police opened an investigation into “petty hooliganism” and questioned the woman who had damaged the icon.

But some Orthodox Church activists and believers want the woman, who has been named in Georgia media, to be subject to a criminal investigation and be potentially jailed for what they say was an act that insulted the icon and their beliefs.

They also want the law which deals with such incidents to be made tougher, according to local reports.

Flowers were placed by the icon on Saturday as believers lined up to kiss the part of it depicting Stalin.

Some Georgian media outlets have reported that Orthodox activists had previously tried to storm the woman’s apartment in Tbilisi, but were prevented by the police.

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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