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Monday, March 27, 2023

Georgian parliament rejects ‘foreign agents’ bill

Georgia’s parliament on Friday rejected in second reading the so-called foreign agents bill, whose passage in first reading sparked mass protests in the country.

After two days of protests, the ruling Georgian Dream party announced on the morning of March 9 that the project would be withdrawn from consideration. For a while it was unclear how this would be done technically. Later, Georgian Dream announced that it would deliberately reject the bill at second reading in order to stop its consideration.

On the morning of March 10, it was submitted for second reading, only one MP having voted in favor, reports the Georgian service of Radio Liberty. Thus, the bill was rejected and will not be adopted.

The Foreign Influence Transparency Bill requires any organization whose activities are 20% or more foreign-funded to officially register as “foreign agents”. Critics of the document, joined by President Salome Zurabishvili, say the bill is modeled on Russia’s, which the Kremlin uses to fight independent civil organizations and dissidents. The bill has been criticized by both the US and the EU.

Two days after the document was adopted in the first reading in Tbilisi, mass rallies took place near the parliament building, which ended in clashes with the police.

On the evening of March 9, after reports that the law would not be passed, protests resumed in Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi on Thursday evening. Their participants demanded the resignation of the government and early elections.

During the actions of the previous days, the police arrested 134 people. Georgia’s human rights ombudsman said several arrested street protesters were injured. According to the Georgia Ministry of Interior, on the evening of March 9, more than 130 detainees were released. For some, the term of stay in the remand center has expired, while others have already paid fines. A detainee is still in custody, accused of assaulting police officers.

The Special Investigative Service has opened an investigation into allegations of abuse of force by the police during the March 7 and 8 arrests.

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