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President Warns Law Enforcement Officials Against Resorting to Violence and Repression

In a strongly-worded briefing on the evening of May 12, just as the protesters are planning to gather around the parliament and hold a night vigil there, the Georgian President addressed the nation, the ruling Georgian Dream, the law enforcement and the protesters. Addressing the GD government she said that their methods as well as their draft law are Russian and unacceptable, and insisted that she will not “play games” as far as the law on agents and her veto power are concerned. She called on the law enforcers “not to dare” to resort to violence, intimidation and conspiratorial repression against the protesters, which she said had been given the green light by Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze in his earlier speech on the same day. The President also called on the demonstrators not to give in to the “planned” provocations.

Protest Rallies

President Zurabishvili said that yesterday Georgia showed to the world “peacefully and convincingly” that “it won’t allow to put its European future under a question mark” and that it won’t allow the Russian law. Nothing can change that, she said, noting that it’s “funny it’s to observe” how GD politicians “with allegedly high IQ (a nod to recent PM remarks) cannot count the number of rallies’ participants [alleging the underestimation of the number of participants in demonstrations by the GD members].

She said that the authorities “demonstrated confusion” and that they “don’t have any strategy in face of so many people’s protest except for what authorities who don’t anymore have citizens’s trust usually do – manipulate and lie to create confusion.” She recalled that GD has lied before, “both to Georgians and to international partners” – citing its promise not to re-introduce the foreign agents’ law. She said that now they authorities “have received the society’s response” to this lie.

The Agents’ Law and the Presidential Veto

She accused the ruling party of manipulation, saying: “Manipulation is when on the one hand hand you talk about dialogue and changes and on the other hand – just what we have heard from the Prime Minister – intimidation, arrests, terror, violence, blackmail.” She addressed the authorities saying they won’t be able to convince anybody that the protesting youth are planning conspiracies…

She also spoke of “unimaginable insults” on part of the GD Members of Parliament, adding that this “only shows how scared they are” and that’s how they express it.

She addressed the ruling GD party: “You still haven’t understood that yes, this law is Russian, there are no questions about it, no matter how many times you ask “what’s Russian in it? ” She said: “What is more alarming is that today this law has become a symbol: your word, your actions, your words, your violence against society – are Russian”, these are the methods that were left in the past and you are reviving them.” She also added that the Prime Minister’s briefing this morning was Russian in its essence.

Speaking about the veto, she expressed incredulity that the Prime Minister, who, she recalled, had called her, a President, a traitor in front of the Georgian Defense Forces, which she stressed was an unimaginable act, would now, as she alleged, use her presidential veto for manipulation. She said: “I am not entering into any manipulation and I won’t play these games, because this only has one goal – you just want to cause confusion among people.”

She then advised GD to either withdraw the bill or send it back for a second hearing and listen to the opposition’s comments in parliament. Or better yet, she said: “Postpone the enforcement of this law, I advise you to November 1, and whoever comes to power will decide whether this is a Russian law or any other country’s law.”

She said: “Don’t count on me that I will enter into this game of embellishing this law. It is Russian and will stay Russian, just as you yourselves.”

Address to the Law Enforcers

Salome Zurabishvili addressed the law-enforcement calling on them “not to dare whatever the threats in the PM speech to resort to repression, violence and conspiracies, or to intimidate the society, which has shown to the whole world, how peaceful and determined it is.”

She said: “You won’t be able to convince anybody of the opposite” and stressed that “whatever happens” is the responsibility of the law enforcement.

Address to the Protest Participants

At the end of her briefing the President addressed the protesters saying that she wants them to know that there are “plans which could be read in the PM speech, to create provocations and involve you in them” and called on the demonstrators to “be careful” and “not to give in to provocations.

She concluded: “We have seen how sound and peaceful these rallies have been” adding that Georgia has demonstrated that Georgians “deserve a free, and European future.”

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