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Georgian President to pardon foreign agent law protester Lazare Grigoriadis

12 April 2024
Lazare Grigoriadis. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has announced she will pardon Georgian foreign agent law protester Lazare Grigoriadis, after he was sentenced to nine years in prison earlier today.

Lazare Grigoriadis, 22, was convicted on Friday morning of attacking a police officer and arson during the March 2023 protests against Georgia’s draft foreign agent law. His conviction comes as the ruling party are once again attempting to bring the controversial legislation back.

In an interview with TV Pirveli from the Orbeliani Palace on Friday evening, Zourabichvili said she took the decision to pardon him minutes after the verdict was announced that morning.

President Zourabichvili said prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence that Lazare was guilty of what he was accused of, echoing widespread criticism from local rights groups of the case against him.

[Read more: Georgian foreign agent law protester Lazare Grigoriadis sentenced to nine years]

Police used massive force against protesters in March 2023. While the controversial foreign agent law was eventually withdrawn, the ruling party brought it back earlier this month. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

During the interview, President Zourabichvili described the ruling Georgian Dream party as ‘totally transformed’ in recent years, especially after the party unilaterally ‘annulled’ an EU-brokered deal between them and the opposition groups in July 2021. 

She said this change intensified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 


Zourabichvili said she had previously abstained from characterising the Georgian Government as ‘pro-Russian’ due to her official role. 

‘Today, this [obligation] of focusing on the state is about focusing on independence and saving this path — [Georgia’s] European path’, she said. 

‘Yes, it’s a Russian dream,’ she replied, when asked if she considered her former allies in this way. The President was supported by Georgian Dream during the 2018 Presidential Elections.

In a tearful interview with TV Formula as the president was speaking, Grigoriadis’ mother, Tamta Kalandadze, thanked Zourabichvili.

Lazare Grigoriadis’ mother, Tamta Kalandadze, during her son’s trial. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

‘I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Ms Salome, all journalists, and every person who stood by us for so long’, she said.

She said she had believed with her ‘heart and soul’ that Zourabichvili would pardon her son, ‘because this attitude towards Lazare was so unfair that he was being punished like this for everyone to see’. 

Grigoriadis’ father, Beka Grigoriadis, took to Facebook in a live stream as Zourabichvili was announcing her intent to pardon his son.

‘Lazar, my son, you are my champion’, he wrote on Facebook.

Beka Grigoriadis has campaigned consistently for his son’s release following his arrest — often resorting to extreme forms of protest.

[Read more: Beka Grigoriadis: ‘Those who fought alongside Lazare have abandoned him’]

Since his arrest last year, there had been a widespread expectation that President Zourabichvili might pardon Grigoriadis. 

Grigoriadis was the first person to be detained for their participation in the foreign agent law protests in March 2023, with ruling Georgian Dream party figures and pro-government media commenting on his appearance and ‘orientation’ in the months that followed his arrest.

Following his verdict on Friday, Grigoriadis’ lawyer, Lika Bitadze said that the court had ‘made a completely unfair, unjustified and shameful decision’.

A protester against the revived foreign agent law on 8 April wearing makeup resembling Grigoriadis’ distinctive tattoos. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

In September 2023, as his pre-trial detention was due to end, Grigoriadis was also convicted over a 2021 domestic disturbance with his father. He was sentenced to one year and six months in prison. It is not yet clear if President Zourabichvili’s pardon will cover this case.