Demonstration against Russian Law will be held on the 8 April

On Monday, April 8, at 2:00 p.m., a rally titled “No to Russian Law — Freedom for Lazare!” will be held in front of both the Parliament of Georgia and the Tbilisi City Court. This event is organized by the CSOs – The Wave and Geut.

According to the rally’s organizers, legislative activities concerning the Russian law will resume in Parliament on Monday. On the other hand, the Tbilisi City Court will conduct the final trial of Lazare Grigoriadis, who was arrested during the protests of March 2023.

The organizers emphasize the importance of demonstrating the interconnectedness of the proceedings in the Parliament and the court. They propose that supporters assemble behind the Parliament and in front of the court to bolster their presence.

Additionally, the final proceedings of Lazare Grigoriadis’ trial will be broadcast live at the Parliament, scheduled for 15:00 on April 8.

On 3 April, Mamuka Mdinaradze, Executive Secretary of the Georgian Dream, announced at a briefing that the “Russian Law” would be reintroduced. He stated, “We have decided to proceed with the initiation and adoption of this law methodically, ensuring all committees and sessions are conducted punctually, maintaining the usual lengthy procedures.”

This ruling party initiative was met with strong international criticism.

The US Helsinki Commission, on 5 April, criticized the re-initiation of the bill as a deliberate undermining of Georgia’s fragile democracy and a rejection of its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, which are broadly supported by the Georgian populace.

Additionally, on 5 April, the chairs of the foreign relations committees from twelve European countries issued a joint statement expressing deep concern over the reintroduction of the so-called “foreign agents” law, viewing it as a threat to the European ambitions of the Georgian people, and urged its removal from the parliamentary agenda.

The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed regret over the decision, with spokesperson Sebastian Fischer highlighting the essential role of press and media freedom as a foundation for any democracy and a crucial criteria for EU membership.

The Georgian government had attempted to pass a similar law last year. Following its adoption in the first reading on 7 March 2023, a large protest erupted near the Parliament. The demonstrations continued into the evening of March 8, where police used water cannons, tear gas, and pepper spray to disperse the crowds. In response to the widespread protests, the government eventually withdrew the law.

President’s official visit to Lithuania rejected by the Government

The government of Georgia has denied President Salome Zurabishvili permission for a working visit to Lithuania, scheduled from 10 April to 12 April. Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze signed the decree rejecting the request, which President Zurabishvili had submitted on 27 March. It remains unclear whether Zurabishvili will proceed with the visit at her own expense.

This is not the first instance of the government blocking the president’s travel to a foreign country. The ruling party, Georgian Dream, previously initiated impeachment proceedings against the president for travelling to EU countries without governmental consent.

The judges halt the inquest of their financial documents by the Anti-constitutional Bureau

On April 5, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) reported that the Tbilisi City Court had halted the verification of property declarations for four judges, including Mikheil Chinchaladze and Levan Murusidze, who were previously sanctioned by the US State Department for their alleged involvement in significant corruption activities.

This action followed a decision on 12 January 2024, by an independent commission established by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The commission had chosen 300 officials, including 27 judges, to undergo asset declaration verification in 2024. This selection was based on criteria such as high public interest and a high risk of corruption.

The judges in question — Mikheil Chinchaladze, Levan Murusidze, Sergo Metofishvili, and Vasil Mshvenieradze — challenged the commission’s proceedings, requesting that the Tbilisi City Court invalidate the minutes of the commission’s session. Judges Leila Foladishvili, Valeriane Filishvili, Nino Buachidze, and Lela Mildenberger subsequently paused the verification process for these four individuals. Notably, among the 300 selected officials, only these judges have sought to stop the examination of their property declarations.

IDFI has urged the Anti-Corruption Bureau to disclose the lawsuits initiated by these judges, as well as any interim orders issued by the court. The organization emphasizes the importance of transparency in these proceedings, citing the significant impact of these actions on public trust in the judiciary.

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