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The Daily Beat: 14 May

Georgia’s ruling party adopted the controversial foreign agents’ law in its third and final reading by 84 votes against 30 on May 14, amid widespread local protests and despite fierce opposition from the West. President Salome Zurabishvili has promised to veto the bill despite passing the final reading. While the Georgian Dream majority can easily override it, the measure is expected to prolong the bill’s signing process for several weeks.


The foreign agents’ law was adopted amid arrests and beatings of peaceful protesters who were gathered near the parliament building. Lawyers and human rights activists claim that almost all the detainees are beaten. Allegedly, the notorious Zviad Kharazisvili special force unit, infamous for its brutality, took part in the arrests of peaceful protesters. Reportedly, Lazare Grigoriadis who was pardoned by the President a couple of weeks ago is among those arrested and beaten.


One of the detainees was David Katsarava, the leader of the anti-occupation movement Power is in Unity which regularly patrols the occupation line and reports on the situation on the ground. Katsarava was standing peacefully on Rustaveli Avenue when, as the footage shows, he was grabbed by the special forces, severely beaten and later hospitalized in serious condition. Later, responding to the question of a journalist about the severe beating of Katsarava, PM Kobakhidze said that police acted fully in line with the EU and US standards.


After the adoption by the ruling majority of the foreign agents law, several opposition parties, notably the United National Movement (UNM)Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Lelo for Georgia, Citizens as well as independent MPs Tamar Kordzaia and Tariel Nakaidze, announced a boycott of parliamentary work.


Several opposition parties said they are ready to put aside their differences and work in partnership with President Salome Zurabishvili to remove the Georgian Dream from power through elections slated for October 2024. This comes after the Georgian Dream majority rammed through the parliament the controversial legislation likely to curb civil society and media activities while ignoring the massive protest and resorting to violent repression.


President Salome Zurabishvili spoke to CNN’s Christian Amanpour and said she would be “leading the pro-European front” of the opposition parties and civil society in upcoming elections. She clarified that she does not intend to run for a seat but will “act as a guarantor” for this pro-Western and pro-European front. The president’s statement follows announcements by several parties that they wish to create a “European Platform of National Resistance.”


Following the meetings with PM Irakli Kobakhidze, CSOs, and the opposition, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian State Jim O’Brien held a press briefing, publicly regretting that “for such an influential individual (meaning Bidzina Ivanishvili) to be so misinformed is shocking.” Speaking about the foreign agents’ law, the Assistant Secretary touched upon the possibility of its amendment and stressed there would be consequences, including travel bans and financial restrictions if it is enacted in its current form.


Later in the evening, PM Irakli Kobakhidze also heldpress conference in which he addressed, among other things, developments regarding the foreign agents’ law, the visit of Assistant Secretary of State Jim O’Brien, and the possibility of U.S. sanctions against Bidzina Ivanishvili. Kobakhidze started the press conference by praising the foreign agents’ law and said that “nobody can be against transparency,” further thanking the GD MPs for voting for the bill, as well as the Interior Ministry’s law-enforcement officials for handling the violence at the rallies “according to EU standards.”


During her daily press briefing, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the White House was “deeply troubled by Georgia’s Kremlin style foreign agents legislation,” adding that “if this legislation passes it would compel us to fundamentally reassess our relationship our relations with Georgia.”


U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), chair of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, along with U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and eight other senators from both parties, expressed their “profound disappointment” with passing of the foreign agents’ law by the Georgian parliament.”


The adoption of foreign agents’ law by the GD majority in its third and final reading prompted strong international criticism and disappointment in Georgia’s long-time partners. In this material, Civil.ge has compiled some of the international reactions.

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