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The Daily Beat: 12 April

On Friday morning, the Tbilisi City Court sentenced Lazare Grigoriadis to 9 years in prison. Grigoriadis, 23, was arrested in connection with the March 7-9 protests against the Foreign Agents Law for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails at police and setting fire to a police car. Later in the day, the defendant side officially appealed to the President to pardon Lazare Grigoriadis.

In a live interview with TV Pirveli late Friday evening, President Salome Zurabishvili said she had already decided to pardon Lazare Grigoriadis. “This morning at 10:00, I decided to pardon Lazare Grigoriadis, although the pardon-related procedures are yet to be finalized, and I have not yet signed the pardon decree,” said the President.

In an interview with local channel TV Pirveli, alongside Lazare Grigoriadis, Salome Zurabishvili covered many issues, including the Foreign Agents Law, Georgia’s EU integration, the upcoming parliamentary elections, the opposition, and the government. She heavily criticized the ruling majority’s foreign and security policy, calling the ruling Georgian Dream party the “Russian Dream” and accusing authorities of sabotaging the country’s European path.  

While opposition representatives, journalists, and civic and human rights activists welcomed Salome Zurabishvili’s decision to pardon Lazare Grigoriadis, senior members of the ruling Georgian Dream party slammed the President’s pardon announcement, describing it as yet another act of treason and insult to the police force. “With Pardoning Lazare Grigoriadis, she threw a Molotov cocktail at our police,said former prime minister and chair of the ruling party, Irakli Garibashvili.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze visited Germany, where he met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the President of the German Bundestag Bärbel Bas, and the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank Walter Steinmeier. The Georgian Prime Minister’s visit comes amid ongoing controversy over the re-tabled Foreign Agents bill, which has prompted outcry both at home and abroad.

During the joint press conference following the meeting with Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, called on Georgia to drop the recently re-tabled foreign agents law, expressing hope that the Georgian Parliament will take into account the positions of the people of Georgia and the international partners.

The German-Georgian interpretation of Chancellor’s remarks on the Foreign Agents Law sparked GD’s criticism, including of PM Kobakhidze, who claimed that Olaf Scholz did not use the term “Foreign Agents Law” in his remarks, further accusing the interpreter contracted by the German side of being linked with radical opposition and intentionally incorrectly interpreting the Chancellor’s remarks. On his part, interpreter Zaal Andronikashvili says, “The content of what the Federal Chancellor said, specifically about this law, regardless of the title, is literally correct, and anyone can verify it.”

In another attempt to shield and promote the re-introduction of the Foreign Agents Law, the ruling majority leader, MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, referred to the German Chancellor’s remarks on EU transparency law, saying that Olaf Scholz himself appears to be against the draft EU directive and initiative regarding transparency of foreign-funded organizations.

For me, accession to any union is not worth it if it harms the interests of my country, its future, its independence, and its sovereignty, for which our ancestors shed their blood,” said the Secretary of the ruling party and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze. After making this statement, Mayor Kaladze was asked by a journalist whether it’s the EU that gets in the way of Georgia’s interests, to which he replied, “I don’t know…society will see that, we will see that on this difficult path, we are on right now.”

According to Freedom House’s Nations in Transit 2024 report, Georgia’s score remains unchanged at 3.04 from last year. However, the same report notes that “the autocratizing hybrids like Hungary, Serbia, and to a lesser extent Georgia are on their way to becoming Semi-Consolidated Authoritarian Regimes based on the report methodology.” The US-based rights watchdog explains that in the context of such regimes, the key institutions, including the media and the judiciary, have been politicized more than expected and “are now effectively captured by ruling parties and abused for partisan or personal gain.”

According to the 17th annual report of the CoE Committee of Ministers,Supervision of the Execution of Judgments and Decisions of the ECHR 2023,” most of the new violations in 2023 in Georgia concerned violations of the applicant’s right to freedom of assembly. The report says that the pending cases included cases of ill-treatment, hate crimes, and domestic violence and their ineffective investigation.


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