Demonstrators gathered outside Tbilisi City Court on Monday amidst court hearings for two men detained during Georgia’s foreign agent law protests.
Lazare Grigoriadis, 21, faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted of throwing two Molotov cocktails at the police and setting a police car on fire during the 7–9 March demonstrations.
Tornike Akopashvili, also 21, faces up to seven years in prison for allegedly attacking a police officer during the protests.
The March protests against the foreign agent law saw tens of thousands of people come out to the streets for two nights in a row, leading the government to withdraw their support for the bills.
On Monday, Judge Nato Khujadze denied an appeal by the defence to grant Grigoriadis ₾20,000 ($8,000) bail, upholding his pre-trial detention.
‘If I wanted to hide, I would have hidden during the last month. Even the clothes I was wearing during my arrest, I wore them at the rally as well’, Grigoriadis told the court.
On the same day, a court hearing for Akopashvili also took place. Akopashvili was released on 10 March on ₾3,000 ($1,200) bail.
Akopashvili’s lawyer, Lasha Tkesheladze, told journalists that they discussed the admissibility of police officer statements and video footage presented by the prosecution. ‘I can say that the case materials and the charges do not correspond to each other’, Tkesheladze said.
Speaking to Publika in April, Akopashvili said he had fought as a volunteer in Ukraine against Russia for 10 months in 2022, having previously served in Georgia’s army for two and a half years.
[Read on OC Media: Demonstrator and journalists face charges over foreign agent protests]
At the demonstration, participants held posters referencing this, with messages such as: ‘when Tornike was defending the motherland, [Prime Minister Irakli] Gharibashvili was selling Georgia’.
An ‘attempt at intimidation’
The demonstration, organised by the liberal activist group the Shame Movement, was attended by several hundred people, including activists and politicians.
Several opposition politicians gathered at the protest told journalists that the cases were being politicised and were aimed to intimidate young people.
[Read on OC Media: Poisoned, soaked, but still dancing: Georgia’s Zoomers come of political age]
‘In the future, if there is any protest [regarding any issue], this is the government’s message that “we will arrest all of you, fabricate the case, and leave you in custody, including during the trial period” ’, said Sergo Chikhladze from the opposition Strategy Aghamashenebeli Party.
On 21 April, Lazare Grigoriadis’s family filed a motion of no confidence in the court and demanded that a jury decide both his and Akopashvili’s fates.
A petition supporting this aim made two requests: ‘to extend the right of a jury trial to the two articles in which Lazare and Tornike are in dispute, and for their case to be tried by a jury, also before the jury’s decision, Lazare should be released on bail’.
According to Georgian legislation, the right to demand a jury trial does not extend to the charges levelled against Grigoriadis and Akopashvili.
Grigoriadis’ next hearing is scheduled for 8 May, while Akopashvili is due to appear in court on 15 May.