Police arrest 66 people in Tbilisi amid protests against ‘foreign influence’ law

8 March, 02:36 PM
Thousands of Georgians protested against the law on foreign agents, adopted by the parliament in the first reading (Photo:Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters)

Thousands of Georgians protested against the law on foreign agents, adopted by the parliament in the first reading (Photo:Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters)

Georgian police have arrested 66 people in Tbilisi protesting against the new law on ‘transparency of foreign influence,’ Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement on March 8.

The protesters were detained under to Article 166 (minor hooliganism) of the Criminal Code of Georgia, and Article 173 (disobedience to the legal request of a law enforcement officer), said the agency.

The department also opened several criminal cases under Articles 353 and 187 in connection with violent incidents. They did not release the number or the names of those detained.

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“In order to restore public order and foil violations of the law, the police were forced to gradually apply proportional force and special means of coercion provided for under the Law of Georgia “On Policing,” based on necessity and after the appropriate warning,” reads the statement.

Up to 50 police officers were injured, says the statement, because of protesters’ violent actions, with several requiring surgery or still in hospital. Members of the public were also injured during the protests, the agency added.

Meanwhile, the former leader of the United National Movement, Nika Melia, has announced new large-scale protests scheduled for March 8 on Rustaveli Avenue, near the Parliament building in Tbilisi.

“We’ll start gathering on Rustaveli Avenue at 3 p.m. (1 p.m. Kyiv time),” Georgian television channel the Mtavari Arhi quoted him as saying.

“And this will repeat every day until the entire Rustaveli Avenue becomes Georgian, not Russian. Until we win.”

On March 7, the Georgian parliament passed the new law on “transparency of foreign influence” in a first reading, which is in fact a copycat law one previously adopted in Russia.

The law, which is supported by the ruling Georgian Dream party, requires any organization that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents,” under penalty of fines.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has said she would veto the bill, but Georgia’s parliamentary majority has enough votes to override the presidential veto.

Mass protests kicked off in the capital city Tbilisi on March 7 amid the parliament’s move. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters.

At the same time, Zurabishvili expressed her support for the demonstrators.

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