Georgian NGOs to challenge foreign agent law in constitutional court, ECHR

FILE PHOTO: Protest against a bill on "foreign agents" in Tbilisi

TBILISI (Reuters) - A group of Georgian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said on Thursday they were preparing an appeal to the Georgian constitutional court against a "foreign agent" law that has sparked a political crisis, Georgian media reported.

Georgia's Interpress news agency reported that the coalition of NGOs was also preparing a submission to the European Court of Human Rights.

Georgian legislators on Tuesday voted to override a presidential veto of the foreign agent bill, which has sparked some of the biggest protests seen in the South Caucasus country since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The bill would require organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from overseas to register as agents of foreign influence, with onerous disclosure requirements and punitive fines for violations.

The vote sets the stage for the speaker of parliament to sign the bill into law in coming days, despite criticism from the U.S. and European countries, which say the bill is authoritarian, Russian-inspired, and undermines Georgia's pro-Western foreign policy.

The Georgian government says the bill is necessary promote transparency and safeguard Georgia's sovereignty against what it says is a bid by Western countries to drag Georgia into confrontation with Russia.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, who opposes the bill, has called on the country's fractious opposition to unite in opposition to the law ahead of parliamentary elections due for Oct 26.

(Reporting by Felix Light; Editing by William Maclean)