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Sunday, April 2, 2023

Protests resume in Georgia


Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, promises “by all rules” to strike down two “foreign agents” bills introduced in Georgia’s parliament.

In particular, they say within the ruling party, the bill “On Transparency of Foreign Influence”, adopted on March 7 in the first reading, will be deliberately rejected in the second reading vote, and the draft alternative law “On the registration of Foreign Agents”, which has not been passed, will be withdrawn by the initiator by his group of anti-Western deputies united in the Power of the People movement.

This is how Georgian Dream responded to the suspicions expressed by its opponents that, after announcing the withdrawal of the bills, the ruling party simply decided to “hide and wait” and, at a later favorable, to “revive” them again.

Recall that large-scale street protests of opponents of the draft law on foreign agents took place in Tbilisi for two days. Despite repeated repressions on March 7 and 8 (the police used water cannons and tear gas against the demonstrators), as well as arrests, the demonstrators were pushed back by the police after some time and returns to the territory in front of the Georgia Parliament building. On the morning of March 9, the ruling party agreed to withdraw the bills that had provoked protests in the country and criticism from its Western partners.

During the protests, police arrested 134 people. At the same time, as stated by the Georgia Ombudsman, several arrested opponents suffered bodily harm. The Special Investigation Service has opened an investigation into possible excessive use of force by the police during the arrests on 7 and 8 March.

According to the Interior Ministry of Georgia, on the evening of March 9, 133 detainees were released: some of them were released due to the expiration of their stay in the remand center, the other party had already paid fines. One detainee is still in custody, charged with assaulting police officers, which carries a prison sentence of four to seven years.

Authorities say more than 70 law enforcement officers suffered from the violent actions of demonstrators during the protests.

The U.S. Embassy in Georgia hailed the ruling party’s decision to withdraw the two foreign agent bills, called on the ruling power to formalize the decision through formal procedures and “not follow this type of legislation incompatible with Georgian and European values”. and the protection of fundamental freedoms.

“The people of Georgia have once again made it clear that Georgia’s only choice is a secure and successful European future,” the embassy said and urged Georgian political leaders to urgently start working on needed reforms. for the country to become an EU candidate.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who is visiting the United States, congratulated the Georgian people “for the victory” and said she would not allow authorities to pass a law that could steer Georgia away from the prospect of integration into the EU.

“There is mistrust in the attitude of the authorities, and the reasons are clear. Have no fear… any law… that doesn’t fit Georgia’s European way, I will veto. And this veto will no longer be empty, because you are behind it, and I hope for you,” Zurabishvili said in a video message on March 9.

Demonstrations resumed in Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi on the evening of March 9, with tens of thousands of people again showing up in Tbilisi. The protesters do not take the ruling Georgian Dream party at its word and demand that the ruling party repeal the foreign agent bills through official procedures so that they are never on the agenda again. the future.

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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