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Prime Minister responds to American Senators

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, August 13
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili has responded to four American Senators and invited them to Georgia to personally observe the legal proceedings against former Georgian officials.

On August 1, US Senators John McCain, Marco Rubio, Jeanne Shaheen and James Risch, personally wrote to the Georgian leader and urged Gharibashvili to ensure his administration did “everything necessary to encourage pluralism and avoid even the perception of selective justice.”

The Senators were especially concerned regarding the charges recently brought up against the ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and six former officials.

The Prime Minister thanked the Senators for their support and interest in Georgia and urged them to come to Georgia to dispel all of their suspicions concerning their perceived political persecution.

“I urge you to watch these trials carefully and invite you to come to Georgia to see the process first hand. I urge you to examine the trial process, which has so far received high marks from international observers, to confirm that these defendants received a fair trial. If the prosecutor lives up to his mandate, he will ensure a fair trial and present convincing evidence. If he does not meet this standard, the defendants should be acquitted,” Gharibashvili stated.

The Prime Minister stressed that the country is facing various challenges and embarking on a legal process against the former officials was not easy. Gharibahsvili assured them that the new government has taken major steps to restore the rule of law and end government impunity. “The Georgian legal system today is vastly different from when you last visited Georgia. We dismantled the system of extortive plea-bargaining and prison torture. Judges are now independent, the prosecutor is autonomous from government control, and defendants have been provided many new rights. In a sign of progress, our prosecutors now regularly lose cases,” PM stated, adding that the UN Human Rights Committee issued a report on July 23, 2014 calling on the current government to investigate the myriad number of potential human rights abuses by the previous government that to date have been ignored.

Gharibashvili stressed that the new government of Georgia should ensure rule of law for all its citizens, no matter he is a high-ranking official or an ordinary citizen.

“I have stated publically that I expect to go to jail myself if I commit criminal acts while in office,” Gharibashvili said.

Gharibashvili’s initiative was welcomed by the majority representatives. However, a member of the United National Movement, Givi Targamadze, called the letter “cynical.”

Analyst Kakha Gogolashvili believes that current Georgian government members should not make cynical or critical statements to those people in the West or in the United States who have certain concerns regarding the ex-officials’ cases. The analyst believes that Georgian officials should be as cautious in their statements to the west as they are towards Russia, as making negative statements towards influential Western or American state figures could potentially damage Georgian interests in the long term.

Fellow analyst Elene Khoshtaria believes that the government has guessed that the ironic statements made several days ago by Georgian officials in response to various foreign officials’ criticism over the charges was a wrong step and the PM tried to improve the mistake through the letter. Khoshtaria stressed that any kind of spoilt relationship with Georgia’s international partners will damage Georgian interests and is especially risky prior to the NATO Wales Summit this September.