UPDATE: 134 Arrested in March 7-9 Rallies Against Foreign Agents Law
On March 7-9, 134 people were arrested during rallies against the Russian-style “foreign agents” bill supported by the ruling majority. 133 of them were charged with administrative offences or petty hooliganism and disobeying a law enforcement officer, and one was charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer, a charge that carries criminal liability.
Detentions on March 8 and 9
67 out of 133 people were detained on March 8 and 9 on administrative charges. 10 of them were detained on their way to the rally in front of the parliament. Others were detained during the rally.
According to the Interior Ministry’s statement, the participants of the rally behaved aggressively and damaged the protective barriers placed along the parliament building, the entrance doors, broke the windows of the building, threw stones, various objects and pyrotechnics into the parliament building and the inner courtyard. The participants of the rally damaged, overturned and set fire to several vehicles of the Ministry of Interior, damaged a bus of the Special Tasks Department, a fire engine, the facades of buildings on Rustaveli Avenue and smashed shop windows.
On March 8, law enforcement agencies arrested one person on charges of assaulting a police officer, which carries a prison sentence of four to seven years.
Detentions on March 7 and 8
The rest of the detained- altogether 66 people – were arrested yesterday and today on charges of petty hooliganism and disobeying a police officer during the rally against the Russian-style “foreign agents” bill supported by the ruling majority. The Ministry of Interior also launched criminal investigation into the “violent incidents” that took place near Parliament.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, yesterday’s protest went beyond the scope of the law on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and turned violent, with those gathered near parliament attempting to block the legislative body, which the police did not allow.
“Despite numerous calls from the Ministry, the participants of the rally continued their violent actions and disobeyed the lawful demands of the law enforcement officers,”- the Ministry said, adding that the demonstrators “threw stones, incendiary devices, blunt objects, physically assaulted and resisted the police officers”.
“Participants of the rally damaged and set fire to vehicles belonging to the ministry, damaged special police equipment… they launched an organized attack on the parliament building, threw “Molotov cocktails” and pyrotechnics, including in the direction of law enforcement officers.
According to the Ministry’s statement, the demonstrators “set fire to the building of the legislative body, threw stones, broke the windows and damaged the iron barriers”, “injuring around 50 representatives of law enforcement, some of whom required surgery”. The Ministry said citizens were also injured during the action.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the “mass violation of law and order” by the demonstrators “forced” the Ministry to use “proportionate force” and “special means of coercion”. The Ministry will investigate the actions of all those “who facilitated and organized the development of a peaceful protest into a violent action”.
Investigation launched into possible excessive use of force against detainees
The Special Investigation Service has started an investigation into the possible excessive use of force by the law enforcement officers against the detainees.
Among those arrested at the protest, there are politicians, including “Girchi-More Freedom” leader and party member Zurab Japaridze and Nika Mosiashvili, as well as Giorgi Mumladze, a member of the “United National Movement”.
According to the lawyer, Zura Japaridze has physical injuries and was beaten by law enforcers even after his arrest: “they beat him because he talked”. “They told him to shut up” otherwise they would continue beating him, he told journalists, adding that Japaridze’s “injuries are clearly visible and among them are visible red marks on his head from a baton”.
The new Ombudsman visited detained individuals
The newly elected Public Defender, Levan Ioseliani, visited some of those arrested at the protest today and said that some of them were people who had nothing to do with the protest. “One of them said he was a passer-by, they grabbed him by hand and put him in the car”- he told reporters.
According to Ioseliani, Zurab Japaridze has the most serious visible injuries, “others do not have such visible injuries”, he said, stressing that “doctors should evaluate them”.
In response to the question “Did the law enforcement officers use disproportionate force? – the Ombudsman replied that in some cases it was clearly visible that “the proportion of the use of force was clearly excessive on the part of the law enforcement structures”. He also called towards refraining “from violence [and] insulting appeals” towards the law enforcement officers, “because in the end all this will turn into violence”.
“I appeal to the law enforcement officials to account for their power in each individual case” and to take all measures to ensure that that it is not excessively applied, adding that he and other officials from the Ombudsman’s Office would observe today’s action on the ground.
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