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Papuashvili slams Western donors for paying fines of Georgian protesters

31 October 2023
Shalva Papuashvili. Official image.

Georgia’s Parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili has criticised international organisations for allegedly paying fines imposed on protesters, accusing them of seeking to ‘incite civil strife’.

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Papuashvili criticised international organisations, likely in reference to the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), for paying the fines of ‘lawbreakers’ — people detained at protests in Georgia — ‘which can be understood by extremist groups as a carte blanche for future violence’.

Papuashvili stated that international organisations had paid the fines of at least 12 people, which he said ‘harms the preventive purpose of fines’.

He went on to accuse the EED of ‘funding radicals such as Droa [an opposition political party], and now it has become clear that it is also funding fines and renewing radicalism’.

In recent years, Georgian authorities have increasingly levied fines against peaceful protesters, accusing them of ‘petty hooliganism’ or ‘disobeying police’.

In September, Tbilisi City Court convicted Eduard Marikashvili of petty hooliganism after he was arrested in early June for holding a blank sheet of paper.

[Read on OC Media: Tbilisi court convicts protester ‘for holding blank sheet of paper’]

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The police also arrested several others alongside Marikashvili, taking away banners or posters they were holding and damaging them.

Papuashvili also renewed his accusation against the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) of planning to ‘incite riots’ — an accusation made by Georgia’s State Security Service (SSG) in early October.

Last week, USAID’s Deputy Administrator of the Europe and Eurasia Bureau, Erin McKee, refuted the accusations made by the SSG and leading members of the ruling Georgian Dream party as ‘falsehood and misinformation’.

Papuashvili criticised her reply as ‘vague’ and ‘inadequate’.

‘The task of some foundations and their local managers is to bring civil strife. It seems that they are connected with political parties’, he claimed. ‘Of course, it is our responsibility to maintain civil peace, regardless of who is behind these trainings and initiatives, whose money it is, regardless of which state it is, every time we reveal the financing of civil conflict, we will talk about it’.

Papuashvili also renewed his criticism of local election watchdog ISFED for a mistake made during the parallel counting of votes in the 2020 parliamentary elections. 

At the time, Georgia’s opposition parties denounced the vote as rigged, citing irregularities made by ISFED and other watchdogs.

In his criticism of the watchdog, Papuashvili ‘demanded an answer’ from USAID, which partly funds ISFED, about whether it learned about ISFED’s error ‘before it was publicly known, or after’.

On Tuesday, Mamuka Mdinaradze, the chair of Georgian Dream’s parliamentary faction, doubled down on the accusations made by Papuashvili. He suggested that the local office of USAID was acting independently of Washington and ‘promoting violent revolutionary processes’.

Read in Azerbaijani on Mikroskop Media.