The U.S. Ambassador to Georgia has responded to President Mikheil Saakashvili’s claim that the FBI observed the events of May 26, 2011 when an oppositional rally was brutally dispersed by the police. Ambassador Richard Norland described the events of that day as a "tragedy".
What does Saakashvili want? - US responds
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, July 26
"Let me say first of all, of course, I was not here on May 26, 2011, but I know that this was a terrible tragedy for Georgia. And at the time, if you look at the statements that we made, you’ll see that we called for a thorough investigation of what happened to make sure that all responsible parties were brought to account. That process I believe has happened and I think that the important thing now is to remember that there are legal proceedings underway which are focused on this particular issue. So it would not be appropriate for us to comment beyond what I’ve said until the legal proceedings have completed.” Norland stated.
On July 20th President Saakashvili stated that "each stage of the rally was observed by the FBI group that sat in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) at that time and that the group delivered a report stating that the police measures did not exceed the limits of the law."
Saakashvili’s statement was met with considerable controversy and was explained differently by various political groups.
Parliamentary majority called the president’s statement "irresponsible" and emphasized that former interior minister Vano Merabishvili and Saakashvili "must be questioned concerning the May 26 events."
"Saakashvili is telling lies, his statement concerning the FBI involvement in the May 26th rally was absolutely irresponsible." Georgian Dream MP Manana Kobakhidze stated and appealed to UNM members to ask "their president" why he is slandering Georgia's strategic partner state.
The Georgian Dream parliamentary majority have no information concerning the FBI’s presence at the MIA on May 26th, 2011. However, UNM MP Davit Bakradze claims that the U.S. government studied the May 26th events.
"Based on information I had from Merabishvili as well as from the U.S. government, a certain group of American experts were in Georgia in May 2011 and were carrying out riot control training for Georgian police officers. After the conclusion of the rally, the group conducted a certain report. As far as I know the report justified the police actions in general, however, there were cases when the report referred to the misuse of force.” Bakradze suggested.
Fellow UNM MP Giorgi Baramidze added that the outcomes of the investigation currently being conducted by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office will reveal the truth.
According to Merabishvili’s lawyer Giorgi Chiviashvili, a report written by a major American research company on the events of May 26, 2011 "might play a crucial role in Merabishvili’s case and reveal the innocence of the former Interior Minister." Merabishvili has been charged regarding the May 26 events.
Chiviashvili states that the U.S. State Department hired the Bensus company to make a detailed report on the events of May 26, 2011.
"The survey gives a detailed overview of all the events leading up to and including the rally of May 26, 2011. It is absolutely impartial and stresses that there was no misuse of force by high ranking Georgian officials on May 26th." Chiviashvili stated. According to the lawyer, the U.S. embassy delivered the report to the MIA. Chiviashvili stated that the U.S. government requested that the report not be made public and the recommendations inside would only be used to help Georgian government agencies in the future.
MIA has not yet made a statement concerning the report.
Democratic Movement-United Georgia party leader Nino Burjanadze has asked the U.S. government to respond to President Saakashvili's statement in a prompt manner. According to Burjanadze the president is "fostering anti-American feelings among the populace".
According analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili, Saakashvili is trying to cause hatred in Georgia towards the U.S.
"Saakashvilli thinks that Georgian interest towards Euro-Atlantic integration has declined. Therefore he acts as if the current Georgian government is pro-Russian and he is the only leader who can undertake a pro-Western course." Tsiskarishvili stated before adding that Saakashvili's statements will only create more negative feelings towards him and the United National Movement.