Beka Grigoriadis, the father of the first participant in the foreign agent law protests to be detained and tried in court, claims he has given up on the Georgian court system, and has sought to launch a protest movement behind the parliament in Tbilisi to demand his son’s freedom.
Lazare Grigoriadis, 21, was charged over violence against police during the March foreign agent law protests in Tbilisi. He was detained by the authorities on 29 March, less than three weeks after protesters gathered outside parliament to celebrate the government formally withdrawing the draft foreign agent law.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgian Dream formally kill foreign agent draft law]
Lazare Grigoriadis 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.
On Monday night, police detained one of Lazare Grigoriadis’ supporters, Bezhan Tsvimitidze, on charges of disobeying police and petty hooliganism, shortly after Lazare’s father, Beka Grigoriadis, reattempted to erect a tent in the Oliver Wardrop Garden, a park behind parliament.
Tsvimitidze’s lawyer, Dimitri Nozadze, told OC Media that his client was released on the same day.
Police confiscated Beka Grigoriadis’ tent as soon as he began his protest with a small group of supporters the previous night.
Launching his protest on Sunday, Grigoriadis urged Lazare’s other supporters, who have previously gathered to protest his detention, to join him.
On 30 May, Beka Grigoriadis told OC Media he intended to ‘keep trying’ to set up his tent and protest near parliament.
‘I have all the rights to set up the tent, I’m not even an ounce in breach of the constitution’, he said.
In recent years, local rights groups have accused law enforcement of interfering with protesters’ right to public assembly by preventing them from setting up tents in public spaces.
On Monday, the authorities deployed a small group of police force to the garden nearby the parliament, likely to prevent Grigoriadis from reattempting to protest there with a tent.
‘A victim of political persecution’
On 10 March, Georgian Dream formally killed the foreign agent law after several days of mass protests shook the streets of Tbilisi. Protesters dispersed after Georgian authorities freed all 133 protesters detained during the protests. However, administrative charges were upheld against some of them.
Later that day, the Ministry of Interior announced its intent to pursue anyone who attacked police officers during the foreign agent law protests ‘to the full extent of the law’.
Lazare Grigoriadis was detained on 29 March and two days later taken to court in a highly publicised trial; the protester was frequently maligned for his dyed blond hair, use of makeup, and wearing jewellery in widely shared photographs.
Irakli Kobakhidze, chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party and an outspoken critic of Grigoriadis, has repeatedly made homophobic remarks about the protester.
[Read more on OC Media: Rights of foreign agent law protester Lazare Grigoriadis ‘possibly violated’]
On 24 May, Kobakhidze, a Doctor of Law from the University of Dusseldorf, suggested that the protester’s father, Beka Grigoriadis, ‘should be detained’ for being a bad parent.
Beka Grigoriadis maintains that his son was targeted because of his appearance and that there is no evidence of Lazare committing any crime.
'The kid is being blamed because he’s different', said Beka Grigoriadis after police officers took away his tent near the parliament on Sunday night.
So far, Beka Grigoriadis has failed in his push for a jury trial for his son, who has been denied bail by the Tbilisi City Court.
Tornike Akopashvili, a former volunteer fighter against Russia in Ukraine, was similarly detained by the government for his involvement in the March protests.
Akopashvili, also 21, faces up to seven years in prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer during the protests. Akopashvili expressed his support for Beka Grigoriadis’ cause on 29 May.
Several pro-Western liberal opposition parties in Georgia, including the United National Movement, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Girchi — More Freedom, and Droa, have described Lazare Grigoriadis as a political prisoner of Georgian Dream, alongside ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili and his ally Nika Gvaramia, owner of TV channel Mtavari Arkhi.
On 28 May, hours before Beka Grigoriadis launched his protest, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), a European Parliament group, recognised Lazare Grigoriadis, Saakashvili, and Gvaramia as victims of ‘political persecution’.