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Live updates | Protesters remain in detention after foreign agent law passes first hearing

18 April 2024
Protesters outside the government chancellery on Wednesday night. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media

After the Georgian foreign agent law passed its first hearing in parliament and the largest protests seen so far against the revived bill, no protests have been announced for Thursday. A number of protesters remain in detention, with an opposition MP also claiming that he was beaten while being detained on Wednesday night. 

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18 Apr 2024, 23:56

We’re ending our live coverage of Georgia’s draft foreign agent law for today.

18 Apr 2024, 22:50

More protesters arrive at parliament

More protesters have arrived outside the Georgian parliament, blocking Rustaveli Avenue.

Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.

25 May 2024, 09:28

Thousands outside parliament

Several thousand people are now protesting outside the Georgian Parliament against the draft foreign agent law.

18 Apr 2024, 21:03

Call for investigation into obstruction of OC Medias work

Media Ombudsman, a local press freedom watchdog, has called on the authorities to investigate the obstruction by police of OC Media director and journalist Mariam Nikuradze’s work.

‘The Mediaombudsman sent a message to the Special Investigation Service and called for an immediate investigation into another case of illegal interference in journalistic activity’, the group said.

As riot police charged protesters without warning on Tuesday night, beating several people, officers prevented Nikuradze from continuing to film.

Nikuradze was asked by one officer why she was filming them beating a man lying on the ground.

Despite wearing press credentials and identifying herself as a journalist, another riot police officer ordered her to leave, pushing her away and preventing her from continuing to film.

Footage of the incident

18 Apr 2024, 20:43

Footage emerges of violent detention of Aleko Elisashvili

TV Pirveli has obtained footage from behind police lines showing officers punching and kicking opposition leader Aleko Elisashvili as they drag him away from last night’s protest outside the government chancellry.

After he was released, Elisashvili accused Vazha Siradze, director of the Patrol Police Department, of directly ordering the assault on him, which he said had resulted in a broken rib. 

Earlier this week, Elisashvili, the leader of the opposition Citizens party, punched Georgian Dream’s parliamentary leader, Mamuka Mdinaradze, during the foreign agent bill’s first committee hearing. He was subsequently set upon and beaten by a group of Georgian Dream MPs.

18 Apr 2024, 20:01

Hundreds of protesters gather outside parliament

Several hundred protesters have gathered outside the Georgian parliament against the draft foreign agent law.

Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.
Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.

18 Apr 2024, 19:58

Dutch FM: foreign agent law ‘could compromise Georgia’s EU path’

The Foreign Minister of Netherlands, Hanke Bruins Slot, has warned that the foreign agent law ‘could impede crucial work of civil society and media' in Georgia. 

‘This law does not reflect EU standards and could compromise Georgia’s EU path’, she added. 

18 Apr 2024, 19:56

Ukraine Foreign Ministry: Kobakhidze’s comment ‘disturbing’

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has criticised Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze for his ‘disturbing’ suggestion that the draft foreign agent law was meant to prevent Georgia’s ‘Ukrainisation’. 

‘Russification, not mythical "Ukrainisation", is the real threat to Georgia’, their statement read. 

18 Apr 2024, 19:21

‘Corridor of shame’ for authorities in Zugdidi

Opponents of the foreign agent bill in the city of Zugdidi in Georgia’s western Samegrelo region organised a ‘corridor of shame’ for local authorities outside the city hall, condemning their support of the bill. 

The protest in Zugdidi. Photo: Zugdidelebi/Facebook

18 Apr 2024, 19:10

US ‘gravely disappointed’ by advancement of foreign agent law

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller has condemned the Georgian parliament’s decision to advance ‘Kremlin inspired “foreign influence” legislation’. 

‘If adopted, the proposed legislation could limit freedom of expression, stigmatize organizations that deliver these benefits to the citizens of Georgia, and impede independent media organizations’, wrote Miller. ‘Such Kremlin-inspired legislation is not appropriate if the goal is to promote transparency.’

Miller’s statement also noted that the law could compromise Georgia’s move towards the EU, called for the protection of people’s right to peaceful assembly.  

‘We join our European allies in urging Georgia not to enact legislation that goes against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Georgian citizens — the desire to integrate fully into the EU’, said Miller. 

18 Apr 2024, 18:49

President Zourabichvili ‘being prevented from pardoning’ foreign agent law protester

The lawyer of Lazare Grigoriadis, arrested over a year ago following his participation in the 2023 foreign agent law protests, has claimed that his pardoning is being deliberately delayed. 

President Salome Zourabichvili announced on Friday that she would pardon Grigoriadis, shortly after the 22-year-old was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of arson and attacking a police officer during the March 2023 protests against Georgia’s draft foreign agent law. 

However, he remains imprisoned six days later, with his lawyer claiming that the resolution has not been provided to the president’s administration. 

The lawyer added that they would take legal measures if the resolution was not received by the presidential administration by Friday. 

Lazare Grigoriadis at his sentencing. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

18 Apr 2024, 17:48

Investigation Service to ‘begin assessing’ attack on opposition MP

Georgia’s Special Investigation Service, a stand-alone agency responsible for investigating abuse of power by government employees and officials, has reportedly begun an assessment of the alleged beating of opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili, local media reported.

According to Elisashvili, he was beaten by police while being detained near the government offices on Wednesday night. On Monday, Elisashvili punched Georgian Dream’s parliamentary leader, Mamuka Mdinaradze, during a discussion of the foreign agent law in parliament.

18 Apr 2024, 17:42

Criticism mounts over police misconduct

Nine local human rights groups have called on the Special Investigation Service, a stand-alone agency whose responsibilities include probing police abuses, to provide a swift report on alleged cases of excessive use of force by police against demonstrators on Tuesday night in Tbilisi.    

The groups noted that over 24 hours had passed, stating that they had identified at least 10 cases of abuse of power that merited investigation by the agency, including attacks on media reporters and opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili.

Parliamentary opposition group Lelo have claimed that their party’s secretary general, Irakli Kupradze, was also physically abused by police during his arrest two days ago at the anti-government protests in Tbilisi. Kupradze remains in pre-trial detention.

On Wednesday, Denis Krivosheev from the rights group Amnesty International described police actions on the night of 16—17 April ‘what appears to be a punishment operation’. 

18 Apr 2024, 17:07

Protest announced for 19:00

A protest against the foreign agent law organised by self-described ‘youth movement’ Dafioni will be held in front of the Parliament at 19:00. 

The organisers write that ‘there is no time to wait for the second and third hearings; the law must be dropped immediately’.

18 Apr 2024, 16:40

Opposition parties announce ‘full mobilisation’ at next reading in parliament

A number of major opposition parties have announced ‘full mobilisation’ to stop the foreign agent bill’s passage into law.

The joint statement was signed by the United National Movement (UNM), Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Lelo, Droa, Girchi — More Freedom, and Ahali.

They said they would begin ‘full coordinated mobilisation’ at the foreign agent bill’s second reading, to stop the ruling party from approving it. 

‘The scared Russian oligarch, Bidzina Ivanishvili, with help from the aggressive parliamentary [majority] and violent police units, is trying to kill Georgia’s European future’, the group wrote. ‘Despite the fact that Georgian Dream passed the Russian law in its first hearing, the main fight is still ahead. We, Georgia’s democratic, pro-Western political parties, realise the importance of common efforts in this fight and announce full coordination and mobilisation for the day of the second hearing of the law, so that, together with our people, we do everything to save the country’s European future’.

Opposition parties and leaders, though present at this week’s protests, have remained relatively low-key.

18 Apr 2024, 16:28

Parliament to launch public discussions on homophobic law

The Georgian Parliament have scheduled nationwide public consultations on the draft constitutional amendments to combat ‘queer propaganda’ beginning next week. Such public consultations are mandatory before making constitutional amendments. 

Amendments to the constitution require the approval of three-quarters of parlaiment to pass outright, 113 MPs. Georgian Dream currently holds 82 seats, while the initiative has found little support across the political board.

18 Apr 2024, 16:22

President Zourabichvili: bill is part of Russian ‘hybrid war’ 

President Salome Zourabichvili has continued to make the rounds in the international press, this time telling CNN that Russia is ‘starting its hybrid [warfare] strategy’ to derail Georgia from its path to EU integration. 

She added that Russia is being ‘helped, obviously, by the [Georgian] authorities today’. 

18 Apr 2024, 15:44

Key MEPs speak out

The chairs of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, South Caucasus Delegation, as well as parliament’s standing rapporteur on Georgia, have issued a joint statement condemning the reintroduction of the draft foreign agent law.

‘This law, which passed its first reading in the Parliament yesterday, is an attack on independent media and civil society organisations. It is incompatible with EU values and democratic principles. It runs against Georgia's ambitions for EU membership and jeopardises the country's Euro-Atlantic integration’, the statement reads. ‘We call on the Georgian Government and Parliament not to disappoint the aspirations of the majority of Georgian people’.

The statement also expresses concern about the use of force by riot police against protesters, and notes that Georgia has yet to implement the European Commission’s recommendations for its EU candidacy progress further. 

18 Apr 2024, 15:20

Duma chair Volodin: foreign agent law necessary for sovereignty

The Chair of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, has praised the Georgian government’s attempt to pass the foreign agent law, in a post on Telegram.

‘Any country, if it wants to become a sovereign state where the people have the right to determine their future independently, is obliged to adopt a law on foreign agents’, he wrote. 

Volodin contended, in a similar vein to Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party, that opponents of the bill were serving powers outside Georgia. He also accused the US and the EU of seeking to overthrow the Georgian government, adding that the adoption of the law could disrupt these plans.

18 Apr 2024, 14:45

Papuashvili: ‘the protests showed us the people’s support for this law’

Speaker of parliament Shalva Papuashvili has stated that three days of mass public protests against the foreign agent law ‘showed us the support of the people for this bill’. 

‘These days showed us the need for this law, and secondly, they showed us the people's support for this law’, said Papuashvili. ‘Therefore, of course, the Parliament of Georgia will continue to discuss this law. [...] Our position is clear that the Georgian people need this law. The position of the Georgian people is clear that they need this law.’

Speaker of Parliament Shalva Papuashvili. Photo: Pirveli Arkhi

18 Apr 2024, 14:40

Online media still banned from parliament

Despite no hearings of the foreign agent law expected for today, journalists from online media are still refused parliamentary accreditation, with parliamentary security at the ‘amber’ level.

18 Apr 2024, 14:13

Opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili ‘beaten by police’

Aleko Elisashvili, an opposition MP who punched majority leader Mamuka Mdinaradze in parliament on Monday, claimed he was physically assaulted by police while being detained near the government offices in Tbilisi on Wednesday night. 

Elisashvili accused Vazha Siradze, director of the Patrol Police Department, of directly ordering the assault on him, which he said had resulted in a broken rib.

Elisashvili after the alleged attack. Screengrab from Formula

18 Apr 2024, 14:03

Key events from yesterday

  • Parliament passed the bill in its first hearing, with 83 votes for and zero against. Opposition MPs boycotted the session, with some also ejected by the speaker of parliament. Two hearings remain, although when they will take place has not yet been announced. 
  • Tens of thousands protested outside Tbilisi’s parliament, moving to the government chancellery after an hour’s ultimatum to withdraw the law had passed. Protesters dispersed peacefully. 
  • An amendment to Georgia’s tax code passed its first hearing. The amendment would free offshore assets from all tax and duties in Georgia. A number of observers suggested that this was aimed at preparing ruling party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili for Western sanctions that might follow the foreign agent law’s passing. 
  • A number of Georgia’s most well-known and popular sportspeople expressed their support for the protest movement, with those speaking in favour of Georgia’s ‘European future’ including Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, UFC fighters Ilia Topuria and Merab Dvalishvili, and the captain and several players from Georgia’s national football team.