Footage on social media shows police using tear gas, water cannons against participants of protest rally near parliament
Special forces in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi began dispersing people who had gathered near the parliament building to protest the adoption of a bill on foreign agents, local media reported early Wednesday.
Footage on social media showed police in the former Soviet state using tear gas and water cannons against participants of the protest rally.
Videos circulating on social medial also showed protesters throwing petrol bombs and stones at police in the city center.
Police called on the protestors to disperse, warning them that legal measures would be used against them if they refused to do so.
Georgian police now have full control of the square in front of the parliament, say media reports.
The protesters had been dispersed several times earlier on Tuesday evening from streets surrounding the parliament but later returned to continue the rally.
The approval of a draft law on “Transparency of Foreign Influence” led to the demonstrations in the capital.
Earlier, Georgia’s President Salome Zurabishvili, who is on an official visit in the US, expressed solidarity with the protesters in an address published on her Facebook account, noting that the draft law was prepared “on the orders” of Russia and “this law should be repealed no matter what.”
“I said from the very first day that I would veto this law, and I will,” she added.
Zurabishvili argued that the bill undermines Georgia’s integration with the European Union and NATO.
“You represent a free Georgia, a Georgia which sees its future in the West and won’t let anyone take this future away,” she said.
“Nobody needs this law…Everyone who has voted for this law has violated the constitution,” Zurabishvili added.
The bill requires individuals, civil society organizations and media outlets to register with the Justice Ministry as “agents of foreign influence” if they receive at least 20% of their funds from abroad. It imposes additional reporting requirements, inspections and administrative and criminal liability including up to five years in prison for any violations.
Some 76 deputies voted in favor and 13 against the draft law, according to Shalva Papuashvili, a parliament speaker of the South Caucasus country.
Demonstrators reacted strongly to the approval of the bill submitted by the People’s Power Party. Opposition parties argue that the law in question is anti-democratic.
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in a statement called on Georgia’s parliament to “firmly reject” the bill.
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