Lazare Grigoriadis, the first person to face charges over the foreign agent protests, has been jailed on charges dating to 2021, shortly before the legal limit for holding Grigoriadis in pretrial detention was about to elapse.
Grigoriadis was on Monday sentenced to one year and six months in prison for stabbing his father, Beka Grigoriadis, during an argument and damaging his car.
Beka Grigoriadis has been campaigning for his son’s release since his detention in April, and claimed that the case was dormant. Speaking to OC Media, he stated that the case was reopened because Lazare Grigoriadis’ pretrial detention term was about to end, and a verdict had not yet been passed regarding charges that Lazare Grigoriadis had committed acts of violence during the Foreign Agent law protests in March.
Beka Grigoriadis added that he had never called the police regarding the attack, with a case only opened after he was admitted to hospital.
‘I was drunk, we had an argument, I agitated him. By attacking, he protected me from bigger disaster’, said Beka. ‘I never had an issue with this case.’
Charges and a fine against Beka Grigoriadis were also reaffirmed by Tbilisi’s City Court on 29 September. The city’s Appeals Court had on 19 September challenged the City Court’s earlier ruling, which found Grigoriadis guilty of petty hooliganism and resisting the police while protesting against Lazare’s detention.
A ‘permanent’ protest
Beka Grigoriadis began a protest in May to demand the release of his son, Lazare Grigoriadis, 21, who is on trial for his actions during the foreign agent law protests.
After police disrupted Beka Grigoriadis’ attempts to set up a tent in a public garden behind the rear entrance of parliament on multiple consecutive days, he was arrested on 1 June for police disobedience. On 2 June, Grigoriadis was found guilty by Tbilisi City Court and fined ₾2000 ($750), which Grigoriadis appealed, demanding that both the Court’s decision and the fine be revoked.
On 19 September, Tbilisi’s Court of Appeals partially satisfied Grigoriadis’ appeal, revoking the court’s decision and instructing it to resume hearings. The decision stated that the City Court had not addressed the question of whether Grigoriadis’ attempt to set up a tent was lawful or not, and whether it fell under legislation government freedom of speech, expression, and assembly.
A video record shows that before Beka Grigoriadis attempted to set up a tent on 1 June, he and other activists addressed police using a megaphone, stating that he was planning to erect a tent. He requested that if this was not lawful, police officers approach and warn them, and explain which laws prohibited setting up a tent at the given location. No police officers approached to provide an explanation.
Grigoriadis added that he was protesting the arrest of his son and criticised the police, but did not swear at or insult anyone present at the site. After he removed his tent from a bag, police detained Grigoriadis.
While the police report presented to court claimed that Grigoriadis disobeyed ‘numerous’ orders from police to stop setting up his tent, there is no evidence to support this in a live video from the protest. Grigoriadis also told OC Media that he did not resist his arrest.
The Appeals Court wrote that the police officers had been guided by legislation prohibiting the installation of constructions that might negatively impact the city’s appearance, but that video evidence made evident that Grigoriadis’ intention in setting up his tent was to engage in an act of protest.
‘It should be assessed [whether] the subjective goal of [Grigoriadis] […] was to change the appearance of the city or if he was expressing his opinion by setting up a tent […]at a specific location’, wrote the court.
Two days after his arrest, Beka Grigoriadis successfully set up his tent behind parliament, where it remains as part of his protest.
Three weeks after the start of his protest, Grigoriadis sewed his lips and an eye shut to draw attention to his cause.
After the ruling against Lazare Grigoriadis on Monday, Beka Grigoriadis stabbed himself in the thigh. He stated this was an act of protest against his son’s sentencing, but also against the perceived abandonment of his son by the ‘hundreds of thousands of people’ who took part in the March protests.