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2024 | Chronicle of Repression

During the process of passing the foreign agents’ law, mass protests and civil activism shook the ruling government’s grip on legitimate power but not on the state’s repressive apparatus. Despite hundreds of thousands protesting against it, the law was passed. Georgians loudly proclaimed, “Yes to Europe,” and its paths with the ruling party have clearly diverged. The Georgian Dream now seems bent on keeping power through repression.

21 people, including 4 opposition politicians and 3 NGO representatives, have been subjected to organized physical attacks since April 17.

The infamous law is meant to stifle dissent, and its impact was felt even before it was passed. There has been a campaign of intimidation against opponents of the law, including politicians, activists, and ordinary citizens. This has included violent attacks, threatening calls, and abusive messages. The ruling party and the government have encouraged and fanned hatred against its opponents, directly or indirectly endorsed many of these incidents, or just turned a blind eye.

As the crucial parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26 approach, political repression is becoming an integral part of the campaign and of political life.

We are starting this blog to keep you updated on cases of intimidation, violence, and threats.

July 10: Lazare Grigoriadis, who was among those arrested and beaten on May 14, the day the ruling party passed the Foreign Agents Bill in its third reading, was fined 2300 GEL by the Tbilisi City Court.

July 5: Davit Katsarava stated that after being brutally beaten and on his way to the hospital, the police told him that he was arrested on administrative charges of petty hooliganism (Article 166) and disobeying the lawful request of the police (Article 173).

July 3: Davit Katsarava, the leader of the anti-occupation movement Power is in Unity, who was beaten so badly on May 14 that he had to be hospitalized and underwent a surgery, received a letter from the court summoning him to appear before a judge on July 5, most likely for administrative offenses. Katsarava reports on social media that he expects the court hearing to be another “kangaroo court,” with police officers testifying that they had turned off their body cameras when Katsarava allegedly began swearing at them.

July 2: The Tbilisi City Court remanded in custody Omar Okribelashvili and Saba Meparishvili, who were arrested on May 14 during protests against the law on foreign agents. The two individuals are charged under the second part of Article 187 of the Criminal Code, which deals with damage to or destruction of property, and is punishable by three to six years’ imprisonment when committed in groups. According to the Georgian MIA, they deliberately damaged the iron protective barrier placed near the Parliament building.

June 25: The UNM office in Poti (western Georgia) was vandalized. Davit Khomeriki, Chair of the UNM regional organization in Poti, said the double-glazed windows were apparently broken by several blows with heavy objects.

June 25: Kote Abdushelishvili, another activist involved in planning the June 30 protest rally against the Georgian Manganese mining company, ნ member of the movement to save the village of Zodi, was attacked by three masked men in daylight in central Tbilisi.

  • On June 30, residents of the Chiatura municipality (Imereti region) plan to rally against the “Georgian Manganese” mining company. They say the company’s work threatens to destroy their village.

June 22: Activist Niko Gaprindashvili was ambushed by three men who physically assaulted him with batons, leaving him with a concussion and other physical injuries. He was attacked after the announcement of the June 30 protest rally against the Georgian Manganese mining company.

June 17: Leri Darjania, a friend of civic activist Datuna Danelia, was attacked and severely beaten by about seven men around 8 a.m. Danelia wrote about this in social media saying: “At 8 o’clock this morning, my friend and comrade-in-arms Leri Darjania was met by the “Titushkys” of the Georgian Dream and was physically assaulted by about 7 people”. According to him Darjania was hospitalized with a broken nose and other facial injuries.

June 14: Ivane Chkhikvadze, EU Integration Program Manager at the Civil Society Foundation and Georgia Country Consultant at the European Endowment for Democracy, who was one of the witnesses testifying at the June 4 U.S. Congressional Hearing, was confronted by propagandist TV representatives and government loyalists at the airport upon his arrival in Georgia on June 14. The video footage shows them, including one allegedly a member of the GD youth organization, calling him “Sergo Orjonikidze,” “slave,” “agent sold with Soros money,” and “traitor without motherland ” and hassling him: “Weren’t you ashamed to make statements against your country ..?” “Doesn’t it make you uncomfortable that you asked for sanctions against the country?”

June 13: Activist Beqa Papashvili was beaten for calling Georgian Dream MP Beqa Odisharia a “Russian slave” and a “traitor” in a grocery store. According to Papashvili, Odisharia was in the store with his bodyguards, who wouldn’t let Papashvili get close to the MP, and after Papashvili came out of the store, three men surrounded him within minutes and started beating him. Papashvili says that one of the men proudly announced that he was Odisharia’s son.

June 11: Zuka Berdzenishvili, an activist and a son of Davit Berdzenishvili, one of the leaders of the opposition Republican party, was brutally assaulted by three people near his home. Recalling the incident, Berdzenishvili says that while he was being beaten, one of the attackers also threatened his life, saying, “I promise I’ll shoot you in the head.” The incident occurred about two hours after a social media post by Shalva Papuashvili, the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, in which he named Berdzenishvili among other individuals representing EU-funded media or NGOs, accusing them of an “organized and politically motivated terror campaign” against members of the parliamentary majority. The Parliament Speaker referred to recent cases of citizens confronting MPs who voted in favor of the foreign agents law.

June 10: Several men dressed in black gathered around the apartment complex of Zurab (Girchi) Japaridze, leader of the opposition party Girchi-More Freedom allegedly waiting to physically attack him. The suspicious figures were spotted by the politician’s neighbors. Gia Japaridze (who was himself ambushed last month by government-paid thugs), the brother of Zurab Japaridze, reported about them in social media. When the crew of TV Pirveli reached the area and inquired, the men said they were there to protect public order and quickly left. Zurab Japaridze was targeted three times in the last month, and once had to fire a warning shot from his gun into the air to scare off the attackers.

June 9: Mariam Tsitsikashvili, a researcher with GRASS-Georgia’s Reforms Associates, was detained at the airport on administrative charges of petty hooliganism (Article 166) following a verbal confrontation with People’s Power MP Viktor Japaridze over his vote in favor of the foreign agents law. She and her companion, Irina Gurgenashvili, who was not involved in the incident, had their passports seized and were denied boarding.

June 7: Niko Managadze, an activist, representative of the Student Movement for Freedom and one of the students protesting Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze’s lecture at Tbilisi State University, was attacked by several men on the street in daylight. He shared to online media outlet Publika that he had just left the university and was waiting for the light to turn green to cross the street when he suddenly felt a blow from behind. Suddenly, others joined the attacker and several men surrounded him and began beating him. Managadze started bleeding and the men let him go only after the passers-by joined the fight. The witnesses recorded a video in which the attackers can be clearly identified.

June 6: Nino Kalandia, an activist and representative of the organizations Talgha and Georgian Down Syndrome Association, reported that when she came home to her apartment complex, she was met in the lobby by a man who asked her when she was going to stop what she was doing and then threatened her. She actively and loudly confronted him and the man taken aback had to leave her alone. Kalandia has also reported receiving threatening phone calls.

June 5: Khatuna Beridze, an activist and head of the NGO Alternative, was arrested and released on parole after calling Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and the Head of the Adjara region’s Government Tornike Rizhvadze “slaves” and “traitors” as they walked down Batumi Boulevard.

June 4: Ioseb Babaevi, a civic activist and businessman, owner of the anti-occupation “Resto Bar,” who, according to media reports, often sends humanitarian aid to Ukraine, was controversially arrested in the city of Gori. He was arrested under Article 236 of the Criminal Code, which provides for the illegal purchase or storage of firearms. However, Babaevi’s lawyer, as well as the local people protesting his arrest, say that the police planted guns on him. The lawyer also said that Babaevi was physically and verbally abused by the police during his detention. In fact, on June 6, when Babaevi appeared before the Gori City Court, several physical injuries were visible on his head. Judge Levan Darbaidze found Ioseb Babaevi not guilty and ruled that the investigation was conducted illegally.

June 2: Tsotne Koberidze, a young politician from the opposition party Girchi-More Freedom, was confronted near his apartment in Tbilisi by two unknown assailants wielding electric shock devices. Koberidze resisted, and bystanders shouted at the attackers, who then fled the scene, leaving Koberidze physically unharmed. Ana Subeliani, a civic activist and co-chair of Tbilisi Pride, received a strange call from someone she didn’t know. The caller tried to trick her by saying he had 150 GEL (about 55 USD) worth of strawberries to give her, hoping to meet up. When Ana refused to meet him, the caller started cursing and verbally abusing her.

June 1: Around 2:30 a.m., 30-40 thugs vandalized the central office of the United National Movement. Levan Khabeishvili, UNM leader, shared the video of the destroyed office on Facebook Live. The night guards had to shoot into the air several times to scare off the intruders. According to Khabeishvili, the men worked in coordination with the police and the Georgian State Security Service. The MIA opened an investigation into the case under Article 187 of the Criminal Code, which deals with damage to or destruction of property.

May 31: Vitali Guguchia, a man seen in the viral video giving GD MP Viktor Japaridze a well-reasoned explanation of why the law on foreign agents is a “Russian law,” became the target of an intense smear campaign by a pro-government POSTV crew that showed up in Guguchia’s village in the western Georgian region of Samegrelo. POSTV journalist Natia Beridze accused Guguchia of secret operations under the UNM government, and the encounter escalated into a physical confrontation between Guguchia and the POSTV cameraman. The Special Investigative Service opened an investigation under Article 154 of the Criminal Code, which deals with obstruction of journalistic activity.

May 31: Giorgi Ushikishvili, a singer and an open critic of the government and the foreign agents law, was chased and verbally abused while driving the car. The next day, the same person texted him on Facebook, reminding him of the incident and telling him that “he does not like his [Ushikishvili’s] position on the country’s Euro-integration.”

May 31: Several opposition politicians and their family members continued to receive threatening phone calls. Among them were Tina Bokuchava and Ani Tsitlidze of the UNM, the mother of For Georgia member Ana Buchukuri, the mother of Droa member Tata Khundadze, and several members of Girchi-More Freedom. The Deputy Mayor of Tsalenjikha, Tamar Belkania, reported that her child had also received the threatening call.

May 31: GD MP Dimitri (Dito) Samkharadze publicly announced that he and his thugs were behind the campaign of intimidation against the government’s opponents and civil society. His Facebook video shows a man leaving abusive, obscene writings on the walls of the offices of protesters against the foreign agents’ law. Samkharadze said this was a response to “neo-fascists,” as he calls them, to those who earlier left writings on the walls of the homes of some GD MPs, calling them “slaves” and “traitors.”

Samkharadze also shared the list of prospective targets. NGOs: Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA); Tbilisi Pride; Sapari; Movement “Step”; “Shame” movement; Courtwatch; Mtis Ambebi; Studio Monitor; Movement “Talga”; Civil Society Foundation; International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED); Transparency International – Batumi; Green Sector. Opposition parties: Lelo For Georgia; Girchi – More Freedom; Droa; Lelo For Georgia – youth wing; United National Movement – central office; Ahali; UNM – Batumi; Lelo – Batumi; Ahali – Batumi.

MP Dito Samkharadze’s announcement of repression was openly supported by People’s Power MP Guram Macharashvili, another GD MP Davit Kacharava, and pro-government POSTV co-founder and TV host Shalva Ramishvili, who on their part endorsed and warned of further repression.

May 31: An orchestrated campaign of intimidation against opposition politicians, media, civil society organizations, and critics of the foreign agents law has resumed.

MAY 28: Parliament Overrides President’s Veto, Finally Adopts Foreign Agents Law

May 28: Zviad Kharazishvili, alias “Khareba,” the notorious head of the MIA’s Special Tasks Department, admitted to battering protesters during peaceful demonstrations against the foreign agents law and said he had a special “list” of people to be targeted by riot police. “I don’t beat young people, I beat scoundrels… We have a list,” Kharazishvili told a journalist.

MAY 27: Legal Issues Committee Endorses Overriding Presidential Veto on Foreign Agents Law

MAY 18: President Salome Zurabishvili Vetoes Foreign Agents Law

May 15: Police arrested Giorgi Okmelashvili, head of the Limoni creative agency, on charges of assaulting a police officer, amid broader concerns that authorities are cracking down on individuals and organizations critical of the government. The MIA said Okmelashvili “physically assaulted” its employees during the May 13 rally at the Parliament building. Prior to his arrest, his home and the agency’s pavilion were searched by police. According to social media reports, at least four other creative and media agencies – AdFlex, H0lymotors, Ogilvy and Betterfly – have been subjected to surprise audits by tax authorities.

May 14: Several people were arrested and beaten during rally near the Parliament building against the foreign agents law when it was adopted in its third and final reading. Among them was Davit 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 he was grabbed by the special forces, severely beaten and later hospitalized in serious condition. Lazare Grigoriadis, who was pardoned by the President, was among those arrested and beaten.

MAY 14: Parliament Passes Foreign Agents Law 84-30 in Third and Final Reading

MAY 13: Legal Issues Committee Passes Foreign Agents Law in Third Reading

May 11: The 73-year-old father of Ana Subeliani, civil activist and co-chair of Tbilisi Pride, was beaten. Rati Amaghlobeli, a writer and one of the organizers of the rallies against the foreign agents law, said that several people ambushed his house and covered his entrance with writings and posters.

May 10-11: Zurab Japaridze, leader of Girchi-More Freedom, was ambushed three times, twice at midnight near his home and once at noon near his party office; in all three cases, he successfully evaded the attackers. In the second case, Japaridze who is a former MP and is legally carrying a weapon, fired a warning shot, causing the masked men to flee in their car.

May 10: A man was severely beaten in his car by a group of police in the presence of his wife. The incident took place in Tbilisi, on Leonidze Street. It occurred when the man was driving up a street and encountered a police bus moving in the opposite direction on a one-way street. When he refused to yield to the bus, a number of policemen got out of the bus and physically assaulted him, relentlessly punching and kicking him, targeting his head. The Special Investigation Service opened an investigation under Article 333 (3b) of the Criminal Code, which deals with exceeding official authority by using force or a weapon.

May 9: Two opposition politicians, Boris (Chele) Kurua of the Girchi-More Freedom party and Nodar Chachanidze of the Ahali party, were attacked and physically assaulted by a group of Titushky (a word that originates from Ukraine’s Maidan protests and denotes thugs paid for by the government to intimidate protesters – both practice and the term are now being re-used in Georgia). Both were attacked near their homes as they were returning from a talk show in which they had participated on Formula TV.

May 9: Ucha Abashidze, a prominent pro-Ukrainian military blogger and activist against the foreign agents’ law, was controversially arrested for allegedly illegally purchasing and storing weapons and ammunition after his house was searched by a group of police who did not allow anyone to enter the property, including his lawyer and family members. The manner in which his house was searched by the police raised fears of the deliberate planting of guns. A few days later, Ucha Abashidze and his wife, Mariam Iashvili, who was arrested on 11 May, were charged under Article 157 Prime (unlawful obtaining and storage of private life secrets) and Article 236 (illegal purchase and storage of firearms and ammunition).

May 9: An orchestrated campaign of intimidation against opponents of the foreign agents law took on a new dimension, with insulting and discrediting posters and writings appearing on the offices and homes of civil society, media, and opposition politicians, calling these people “agents,” “enemies of the country,” “UNM hired,” and so on. This process continued on May 10 and 11.

May 9: Giorgi Oniani, a member of the opposition Ahali party, told Formula TV that after he and his wife left home late at night to visit the hospital and see Dimitri Chikovani, who had been beaten by unknown assailants earlier that day, individuals ambushed his home, aggressively stomping on the floors and verbally assaulting his 14-year-old son, who was alone at the time. He also said that he and his family members had been receiving abusive phone calls for two days.

May 8: Dimitri Chikovani of the UNM, Lasha Ghvinianidze, an activist and one of the organizers of the bikers’ marches, and Gia Japaridze, a former career diplomat, professor at the University of Georgia, researcher at the Chavchavadze Center think tank, and brother of Zurab Japaridze, leader of the opposition Girchi-More Freedom, were attacked and beaten by pro-government thugs. Following the attack on Lasha Ghviniashvili, he told Formula TV that he had received an unknown call on his phone prior to the attack, suggesting that the attackers may have used this method to pinpoint his location. He also mentioned that his 72-year-old father had received a call earlier in the day warning him that “his son should stop.” On the same day, DJ Gio Shengelia, a public critic of the foreign agents law, was physically assaulted by two people as he left the club.

May 8: Koba Pipiashvili, who attacked Lado Apkhazava and his son on May 5, was released on GEL 4000 (about USD 1440) bail. He was issued a restraining order against Apkhazava and his companion. Before releasing the attacker on bail, prosecutors charged him under Part C of Article 126 (violence against two persons) of the Georgian Criminal Code, which carries a two-year prison sentence.

May 8: Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili announced that the Political Council of Georgian Dream has decided to create a database containing information on all individuals “who are involved in violence, blackmail, threats, and other illegal acts,” or “who publicly endorse these actions.”

Since May 7: Hundreds of civil activists, opposition politicians, participants in the protests against the foreign agents law, as well as their family members have been receiving phone calls from foreign and Georgian phone numbers, and after picking the phone they are verbally abused and intimidated.

May 7: 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 near the Swedish Embassy in Tbilisi. The opposition-leaning Formula TV crew interviewing Kldiashvili was also attacked. The assailant, whose face and car could be identified, pointed at people near the Embassy as he passed by, swearing at those who “support these people.”

May 5: Lado Aphazava, a teacher from the Guria region of western Georgia and winner of the National Teacher Award, and his son were attacked and physically assaulted by several men near his home in the town of Lanchkhuti. Aphazava claimed that he was targeted because of his public criticism of the foreign agents’ law and his participation in protest rallies.

MAY 1: Parliament Passes Foreign Agents Law 83-23 in Second Reading

May 1: Levan Khabeishvili, leader of the United National Movement (UNM), was severely beaten by police during the April 30-May 1 rally against the foreign agents law. He had multiple bruises and lacerations on his face, a severely injured eye, and a broken nose. Recalling his detention, Khabeishvili said that he was told that he has a “long tongue” and that he is “constantly criticizing the government.” Almost a month after the incident, the Prosecutor’s Office officially recognized Khabeishvili as an injured party.

APRIL 29: Legal Issues Committee Endorses Foreign Agents Law in Second Hearing

April 17: Online media journalists Aleksandre Keshelashvili of Publika, Giorgi Badridze of Tabula, and Giorgi Baskhajauri of April were reportedly chased and beaten by police while covering a story during a protest rally against the foreign agent’s law near the Parliament building.

To be updated…

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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