Police confiscated and damaged banners held by protesters in front of Georgia’s parliament on the evening of 1 June. On the same evening, police detained the father of foreign agent law protester Lazare Grigoriadis, who was demanding his son’s release.
Activists from civil anti-government organisation GEUT (Stubborn) were protesting Prime Minister Gharibashvili’s statement on Tuesday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was caused by Ukraine’s intention to join NATO.
[Read on OC Media: Georgia’s Prime Minister attracts criticism for comments on Ukraine war]
GEUT have held daily protests in front of the parliament against the actions of the Georgian government since 4 April 2022.
In a video published by the activist Gela Khasaia, police approach a small group of demonstrators holding posters and start confiscating the signs, ripping some in the process. Some protesters held signs with photographs of Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, while another held a poster featuring the Georgian flag and an anti-Russian poem written by historic Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli.
The organisation stated on 2 June that they had contacted the police and the special investigation service, but had received no response.
Police reportedly also confiscated posters from GEUT activists on the two evenings prior.
On Friday, Georgia’s Public Defender’s Office issued a statement regarding the incident, stating that the posters were confiscated ‘for a completely incomprehensible reason and in a rude manner’.
The statement added that the action did not correspond to the obligation of law enforcement officers to promote ‘the full exercise of [citizens’] rights, including through various means of expression’.
‘The Public Defender once again calls on the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia not to impose unjustified restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression’, concluded the statement.
Detained for attempting to pitch a tent
Less than an hour after the video of the posters’ confiscation was posted on Facebook, police detained Beka Grigoriadis for disobeying their orders. Grigoriadis had been protesting continuously behind parliament since 28 May.
He was fined ₾2,000 ($770) and released in the evening of the following day.
Beka Grigoriadis is the father of Lazare Grigoriadis, 21, who was charged with violence against police during the March foreign agent law protests in Tbilisi, and is currently on trial. If found guilty, Lazare Grigoriadis faces up to 11 years in prison.
Beka Grigoriadis has been demanding the release of his son, who he claims is innocent and being targeted because of his appearance.
Since he began his protest, Grigoriadis has been repeatedly prevented by police from pitching a tent in a park behind Georgia’s parliament. On 29 May, police detained Bezhan Tsvimitidze, who was protesting with Grigoriadis, but released him the same day.
The Public Defender’s statement on Friday describes pitching a tent as ‘an integral part of the exercise of freedom of assembly’, noting that the conflict was particularly problematic given that only one person was pitching a tent, and the tent was not blocking any entrances or obstructing traffic.
‘Even when only one person expresses a protest by using a tent, which does not fall within the area protected by freedom of assembly, that person shall enjoy freedom of expression, interference in which is considered disproportionate without relevant and proper reasons’, the statement reads.