Georgian opposition ends hunger strike in Tbilisi
( RIA Novosti ) - Georgian opposition members protesting against the results of the country's January presidential election have agreed to end their hunger strike, which began on March 9.
The move came after the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II repeated his calls for the opposition to call off their hunger strike. He branded it 'non-Christian,' and urged protestors to resume dialogue with the authorities.
"In these days of Lent you have taken a non-Christian step as you have resorted to hunger to express your opinion," Ilia II told the protestors. "May God forgive you for this sin. But at the moment you are jeopardizing your lives, and I once again ask you to end this hunger strike."
Protesters went on a hunger strike outside parliament in Tbilisi in protest against the election which they say was rigged in favor of President Mikheil Saakashvili. They also oppose changes to election rules which were adopted by parliament two weeks ago prior to parliamentary polls, which are set for May 11.
The protesters have also demanded the resignation of Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burdzhanadze and the release of all the people detained during November opposition rallies in Tbilisi.
Tbilisi saw six days of opposition rallies last November as protestors occupied the city center demanding Saakashvili's resignation over allegations of corruption and increasing authoritarianism.
The Georgian leader responded by sending in riot police to crack down on protestors on November 7. Over 500 people were injured, according to the U.S. rights group, Human Rights Watch, as police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to break up the demonstrations.
Saakashvili subsequently called early elections for January and was reelected with 53% of the vote.