New East Digital Archive

Arrest of two rappers sparks protest in Tbilisi and Batumi

Arrest of two rappers sparks protest in Tbilisi and Batumi
Still from Birja Mafia's video uploaded 4 June, with the policeman character blurred out. Image: Youtube / ItsYoungMic

12 June 2017

Several thousands of people showed up to protests in Georgia last Friday after two members of the Birja Mafia rap group were arrested for carrying drugs. Protesters say the real reason for the arrest might be the band’s contraversial latest music video.

Mikheil Mgaloblishvili and Giorgi Keburia, known as Young Mic and Kay-G, have been arrested and will remain in prison for the duration of investigation, Tbilisi city court ruled on 9 June. Mgaloblishvili has said in court that the drugs were planted by the police in response to the band’s most recent music. Keburia, who at first pleaded guilty, has since denied the charges saying he was forced into it.

The three minute rap video featuring a policeman behaving like a dog as the rappers throw him a bone was originally published in March but later deleted from Youtube, allegedly on request from authorities. It was uploaded again on 4 June, with the policeman blurred out.

If proven guilty, Mgaloblishvili and Keburia could get a lengthy prison term, or even a life sentence. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili released a statement on the arrest on June 10, saying the government’s drug policy “is excessively harsh and requires liberalisation.” Energy Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze has also released a statement calling for “radical changes” to the drug policy.

The Public Defender’s office has also announced that it will look into the case, with the Prosecutor’s office launching an internal investigation.