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First person charged and detained over Georgia’s foreign agent protests

31 March 2023
Lazare Grigoriadis during his first court appearence. Photo: Publika

A 21-year-old protester has been remanded in custody on charges of attacking a police officer and destroying government property during the anti-foreign agent law protests. Pro-government media and the ruling party chair have publicised the case, speculating about the detainee’s ‘orientation’ and political allegiances. 

Lazare Grigoriadis, who was detained on 29 March, is the first person to be criminally charged over clashes with police during anti-government protests that took place earlier this month. 

He faces up to 11 years in prison if found guilty of throwing two Molotov cocktails at the police and setting a police car on fire during the 7–9 March demonstrations against the controversial foreign agent law. 

The Prosecutor’s Office reported that two riot police officers were hospitalised after being hit on 7 March by Molotov cocktails thrown by Grigoriadis. They added that the state had sustained ₾39,500 ($15,500) worth of damage due to the car’s burning on 9 March. 

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside Georgia’s parliament on 7–9 March, as the government passed and then failed the foreign agent bill. Police used water cannons and pepper spray against demonstrators, on 7 March doing so without due warning, according to the watchdog group Human Rights Center. 

As Grigoriadis’ first hearing took place on 31 March, a group of his supporters gathered outside the court, demanding his freedom and condemning what they described as a government-run campaign against him. On the announcement of Judge Arsen Kalatozishvili to remand Grigoriadis in custody, those there to support him shouted ‘slaves’ and ‘Russians’. 

‘Demonising my son'

In their 29 March statement, the Interior Ministry noted in detail the detainee’s previous criminal convictions: Lazare Grigoriadis was fined for disobeying police in 2020 and found guilty of violence and property damage in 2021, the latter two charges both in a domestic setting.


Commenting on the domestic violence charges, Lazare Grigoriadis’ grandfather, Gia Grigoriadis, told media that his grandson had been defending himself against his father during a conflict. The defendant’s father, Beka Grigoriadis, corroborated the claim to RFE/RL, and accused the ruling party of attempting to ‘demonise’ his son. 

While the ministry identified the accused only by his initials, pro-government TV channel POSTV on Thursday published a photograph of Grigoriadis wearing makeup and jewellery, and holding up his middle finger. This was soon shared by other pro-government media. 

The post noted that Grigoriadis had previously been convicted of ‘violence against his father’, and claimed that Grigoriadis was ‘a member of Khoshtaria’s party’, referring to the opposition party Droa, chaired by Elene Khoshtaria. Both Khoshtaria and the party have denied the claim. 

Khoshtaria also suggested that the post aimed to both support the ruling party’s labelling of protesters as ‘satanists’ and ‘extremists’, and discredit her party. Liberal activist group Shame further suggested that Grigoriadis had been deliberately chosen as the first protester to face trial based on his public profile. 

Irakli Kobakhidze, the chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, publicly discussed Grigoriadis later on Thursday. 

Kobakhidze described Grigoriadis as having ‘all sorts of orientations confused’, and stated that ‘these kinds of people used violence against police officers’. 

On Friday, Kobakhidze doubled down on the allegation.  

‘He has every kind of orientation messed up’, said Kobakhidze. ‘Every sort of orientation is relevant when there’s a possibility of a causal relationship between a person’s orientation and what they do.’

[Read also on OC Media: Poisoned, soaked, but still dancing: Georgia’s Zoomers come of political age

On Thursday, the ruling party chair also claimed that the detainee was ‘connected to the Bolshevik troika’, referring to the loose alliance of opposition parties Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Droa, and Girchi — More Freedom. 

The next hearing is set to take place on 1 May. 

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