Former Georgian State Minister Petriashvili Arrested at Protest Against Foreign Agents Law

Thousands protest in Georgia against proposed 'foreign agents' law, which critics say is authoritarian and Russian-inspired, leading to arrest of former minister. The EU warns the bill could halt Georgia's EU integration.

Safak Costu
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Former Georgian State Minister Petriashvili Arrested at Protest Against Foreign Agents Law

Former Georgian State Minister Petriashvili Arrested at Protest Against Foreign Agents Law

Petriashvili, a former Georgian State Minister, was arrested during a protest against a proposed foreign agents law in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Thousands of Georgians took to the streets on April 28, 2024 to demonstrate against the divisive draft law, which would require media and non-commercial organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as being under foreign influence.

The protest was organized by over 100 civil society organizations and media outlets. During the rally, speakers read a statement calling on the Georgian government not to schedule the plenary session for the second reading of the law on April 29. The statement warned that if the session is held, the opponents have a specific plan and places where they will gather citizens against the law.

Why this matters: The proposed foreign agents law has drawn widespread criticism from the opposition and Western countries, who say it is authoritarian and Russian-inspired. The EU has warned that the bill could halt Georgia's integration with the European Union.

Critics say the law would be used to crack down on independent voices and undermine Georgia's European aspirations. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has said she will veto the bill if it is approved, but the ruling Georgian Dream party has enough lawmakers to override her veto. The U.S. Senate has also warned that the law could lead to a change in U.S. policy toward Georgia.

The ruling party introduced the legislation in 2023 but was forced to withdraw it after mass protests. They have now brought the law back with minor changes and passed its first reading on April 17, with the final reading scheduled for May 17. Protesters have been rallying nightly outside parliament since the first reading and have called for more demonstrations ahead of the second reading.

The arrest of Petriashvili, a prominent figure, highlights the tensions and opposition surrounding the proposed legislation. Thousands of protesters expressed concerns that the bill, if adopted, would bring the country closer to Russian influence and shut down many non-government organizations that have done good work in Georgia. "The bill must pass three readings in parliament and overcome a veto by Georgia's president, who opposes it," stated one of the speakers at the rally. The government has also called a demonstration in support of the bill for April 29.

Key Takeaways

  • Thousands protested in Tbilisi against proposed foreign agents law.
  • Law would require media, NGOs with >20% foreign funding to register.
  • Protesters, opposition, and West say law is authoritarian and Russian-inspired.
  • Georgian president vowed to veto law, but ruling party can override veto.
  • Arrest of ex-minister highlights tensions; govt plans pro-law rally on April 29.