State service investigating alleged abuse of power by law enforcement at Tbilisi rally

Georgia’s Special Investigation Service said the incident involved the opposition politician Zurab Japarizde. Photo: Georgia’s Special Investigation Service, 08 Mar 2023 - 16:37, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s Special Investigation Service on Wednesday announced it was investigating alleged instances of abuse of power by law enforcement officers during a rally in central Tbilisi late on Tuesday that protested the controversial domestic bill on transparency of foreign influence.

The agency said it was looking into alleged violence against the opposition politician Zurab Girchi Japaridze, who was reportedly beaten by riot police after being detained near the Parliament building.

Japaridze’s wife claimed in her social media post on Wednesday the officers had used pepper spray before assaulting her husband. 

The Georgian Interior Ministry on Wednesday said its employees had arrested 66 people for “petty hooliganism”, disobedience to law enforcement and throwing “Molotov cocktails and stones” at officers as protesters clashed with law enforcement as the legislative body gave its initial backing to the bill proposed by former members of the ruling Georgian Dream party. 

The proposed bill - condemned by the domestic opposition and civil sector, as well as diplomatic representations in Georgia and European and United States officials - involves registration of non-commercial legal entities and media outlets in the country as “agents of foreign influence” if they derive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.

Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, on Wednesday said the Georgian authorities had shown “utmost respect” to the European institutions by forwarding the bill to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe for opinion. 

He said the party would wait for the Commission's recommendations and continue “to act accordingly”.