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The Daily Beat: 7 May

At a daily press briefing, the US State Department’s Spokesperson Matthew Miller reacted again to the GD-initiated Foreign Agents Law, saying it would jeopardize Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic path and undermine the US-Georgia relationship. Spokesperson Miller declined to comment on any sanctions for GD founder Bidzina Ivanishvili or other Georgian lawmakers who support the controversial bill.

In a letter dated May 7 and addressed to European Commission Vice-president and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borell, leading MEPs call for the suspension of Georgia’s EU candidate status, a review of EU funding of the Georgian state budget, and an interim assessment of Georgia’s progress in implementing the nine steps set out by the EC for the opening of accession talks. The letter is signed by more than 30 MEPs representing various political groups in the European Parliament.

According to “Reuters,” the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Odile Renaud-Basso, warned that the foreign agents law may hurt investment in Georgia and the country’s economy. “We were surprised to see it coming back, and we are concerned by the dynamics of what’s involved,” the EBRD President told journalists during a media briefing ahead of the EBRD’s Annual Meeting and Business Forum set be held next week in Yerevan.

Johan Forssell, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, who is visiting Georgia, says that the foreign agents law is not in line with the EU’s requirements. Minister Forssell has already met with President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, and opposition representatives. While in Tbilisi, he is also scheduled to meet the CSOs. Speaking to the reporters ahead of the meeting with the opposition, Minister Forssell, stressed that ongoing political developments related to the foreign agents law will be the main topic of his discussions in Georgia.

In the meantime, the protests in Tbilisi are back to their usual intensity after the Easter Holidays. Rallies continued with youth-led marches, again blocking Rustaveli Avenue and marching further towards the headquarters of the ruling Georgian Dream party. A protest rally and march against the foreign agents law was also held today in Telavi, in the eastern Georgian region of Kakheti. People from other Georgian cities are expected to take to the streets in the coming days as well.

On May 7, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) released its judgment on the cases concerning the violent dispersal of protests on June 20-21, 2019, known as “Gavrilov’s Night”, finding a failure of a proper criminal investigation under the procedural limb of Article 3 (prohibition of torture). The Court holds unanimously that there has been a violation of the procedural aspect of Article 3 and orders the Georgian side to pay damages ranging from EURO 15,000 – 1,800, plus EURO 6,000 for all costs and expenses.

On May 7, the Kremlin’s man in charge of occupied Abkhazia’s foreign policy, Inal Ardzinba was fired by the de facto president of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, without giving a reason. While some media speculated that Ardzinba was being held for questioning, an official statement disseminated by the de facto foreign ministry, says he resigned due to a “transfer to a new job” and is currently in Moscow, without specifying the nature of that new assignment.

Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), a watchdog, was verbally and physically assaulted while speaking to journalists. Kldiashvili was being interviewed by opposition-leaning TV Formula after meeting the Swedish Minister for International Cooperation at the Swedish Embassy. The ruling party has been portraying the CSO leaders and opposition as being against traditional values, and faith and as “people without a motherland,” inciting a series of violence against vocal opponents of the foreign agents law.

Today, hundreds of activists participating in protest rallies against the foreign agents law reported receiving phone calls from unknown Ukrainian numbers, containing verbal abuse, threats, and warnings to refrain from speaking out against the bill. The media and civil activists assume that these calls are orchestrated and backed up by the authorities since they possess all the relevant data, including the phone numbers and addresses of the activists.

More than 700 teachers from across Georgia have signed a joint statement expressing solidarity with their colleague Lado Apkhazava, the winner of the National Teacher Award, condemning the May 5 physical attack on him, and calling on law enforcement authorities to conduct a “timely and effective” investigation into the case.


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