Georgia: Horror of Violence Against Demonstrators

After the vote, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets. They gathered in front of the parliament building in the Georgian capital Tbilisi and waved Georgian and EU flags, AFP reporters said. Police later allegedly used tear gas, water cannons and stun grenades against the protesters. Many people were injured.

Deputies in Tbilisi voted 83 in favor and 23 against to adopt the law, which opponents see as a tool to suppress critical media and organizations.

Three readings are necessary for a law to be approved. Prime Minister Iraq Kobachidze has already announced that the third reading will be held in two weeks, despite the ongoing protests. He told a press conference two weeks later that parliament would override President Salome Dzurapishvili's expected veto against the law.

APA/AFP/Giorgi Arjevanidze

Police in Tbilisi use pepper spray against demonstrators

63 people were arrested in the protest

Police have already dispersed protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets on Tuesday. 63 people were arrested. Among those arrested was Levan Khabeishvili, leader of the largest opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM). Kapishvili posted a photo of him with a bloodied, swollen face. He said he was ill-treated by the police.

Prime Minister Kobachidze justified the harsh police action. He stressed that law enforcement officers only operate within the framework of the law. The interior ministry justified the police crackdown on Wednesday by saying that demonstrators had tried to break down the doors of parliament. Authorities used pepper spray and water cannons, among other things, to restore order, the ministry announced Wednesday evening.

Van der Leyen sees Georgia “at a crossroads”.

“I am following the situation in Georgia with great concern and condemn the violence on the streets of Tbilisi,” EU Commission President Van der Leyen wrote on X (Twitter). Georgians want a European future. “Georgia is at a crossroads,” he said. “Georgia is a candidate for EU membership. I call on the authorities to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly,” Borrell wrote in X. “The use of violence to suppress this is unacceptable.”

The foreign ministry in Vienna expressed “deep concern” that a strong civil society is essential to Georgia's European path, the tweet said, adding that “we support Georgians' right to protest and call for a return to dialogue.”

Opponents fear EU accession with optimism

The ruling Georgian Dream party aims for the law to come into effect by mid-May. It stipulates that companies receiving at least 20 percent of their funding from abroad must be officially registered in Georgia.

Critics see clear parallels with Russia's anti-“foreign agents” law, which allows authorities there to crack down on critical media and organizations.

Protests against “Russian law” have been going on for weeks in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The Georgian Dream party, in power since 2012, is turning increasingly authoritarian ahead of parliamentary elections in the fall. Pro-European protesters fear the course could jeopardize a credible integration into the EU. Georgia has officially been a candidate for EU membership since December – when Brussels declared the law to undermine the country's membership aspirations.

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