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Saakashvili’s interrogation request raises concerns in the US

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, March 25
The United States is concerned by the decision of the Georgian authorities to call former President Mikheil Saakashvili for questioning in multiple criminal investigations.

“No one is above the law, but launching multiple simultaneous investigations involving a former President raises legitimate concerns about political retribution, particularly when legal and judicial institutions are still fragile,” the U.S. Department of State reports.

The statement also reads that as discussed at the highest levels when Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili visited Washington in February, the United States urges Georgia’s leaders to focus the nation's energies on the future, a strong economy, continued reform of the justice sector, and rapid progress on Euro-Atlantic integration.

The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia summoned former president Mikheil Saakashvili for questioning over a raft of criminal cases. Saakashvili has been told to appear on March 27 in connection with 10 cases, including a possible probe into the 2005 death of former prime minister and his close ally Zurab Zhvania. Some of the other cases relate to a police raid on an independent broadcaster, the alleged misappropriation of funds by the state security service and the illegal seizure of assets. Responding to the summons, the former president stated that he is not going to take part in the Putin-Ivanishvili game. Saakashvili thinks that Putin wants him arrested and believes that he will try and achieve his aim by using former Georgian PM Bidzina Ivanishvili as a proxy, who according to him, still has influence on the Georgian Government.

Georgia is in a transitional period and it is important to avoid selective justice, Head of the NATO Liaison Office in Georgia, William Lahue, said on Monday.

“Georgia is in a transition period. For example, a change of government… and it is not a simple process. It is important to avoid selective justice,” Lahue said.

Political motivation must be excluded from any investigation, Ambassador of the UK to Georgia Alexandra Hall Hall stated.

“Georgia should show unity and the ability of working with the opposition, though, of course, nobody should stand above the law,” she said.

Some people say Georgia might not deserve the membership action plan (MAP) after former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s summoning to the prosecutor's office of Georgia, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza told the Georgian Public Broadcaster on Sunday.

Saakashvili is obliged to cooperate with the investigation and provide detailed answers to all the questions, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said in an exclusive interview with Kviris Palitra on Saturday.

“He has to answer to all the questions in detail, in order to put to rest doubts and help the investigation. If he has preserved any wisdom, he must come to Georgia,” Gharibashvili said.

According to him, if Saakashvili does not arrive to Georgia, the prosecutor’s office will act in accordance with the law and he will be declared wanted.

Representative of the parliamentary majority Irakli Sesiashvili explained that there are many examples in the world of questioning political leaders.

“I understand that the United National Movement is in hysteria and tries to cause sharp reactions from the international community to save themselves, but there’s no reason to panic. If anybody committed a crime, he should be punished, be it the former or the acting leader,” Sesiashvili stated.

Saakashvili and the country’s European integration processes are not and will not be connected, the head of the parliamentary committee of European integration, Vicktor Dolidze, stated.

The parliamentary minority United National Movement says that the international statements made concerning Saakashvili’s summoning for interrogation would “harm” Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

The whole UNM called the fact another instance of political pressure and appealed to the authorities to give up its efforts of leading the country into confrontations.