72 politicians, including MEPs, former Ministers of Georgia, former ambassadors and international partners are demanding the release of the third President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili. The joint letter is addressed to European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Parliament President David Sassoli.
MEPs, International Politicians, Former Georgian Officials Call for Saakashvili’s Release
By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, October 19
As signatories note, in 2012, President Saakashvili ‘oversaw free and fair elections’ and ‘handed power to the new government peacefully and democratically.’ According to the letter, On October 1, 2021, Saakashvili was arrested based on the charges that ‘are known to be politically motivated’ and have not been recognized internationally.
“No one moved to detain or extradite him as he continued to work and travel abroad, because these charges were known to be part of an established pattern of political persecution,” the letter reads.
The signatories believe that Saakashvili’s arrest can only deepen the ongoing political crisis, which is the result of attempts to control the free press, to intimidate and surveil journalists, opposition politicians, activists, and even foreign diplomats, and to limit the space and resources for political opposition to the government.
“Every day that the Georgian government continues to pursue the politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment of its political rivals and predecessors is another day that worsens the cycle of extreme political polarization in Georgia, making unity of political forces for the sake of strategic national priorities impossible,” signatories note, adding that extreme political polarization undermines the democratic institutions of Georgia, making the country vulnerable to existential threats it still faces.
“We know where this pattern leads. There is no option of silence now,” the signatories stressed.
It is noted in the open letter that since the justice system in Georgia lacks public trust, “some element of international observation must be put in place to help calm tensions as this process moves ahead.”
The signatories highlighted that the EU-mediated April 19 agreement, which the Georgian Dream quit, clearly stated that “the era of politically motivated justice should finally end in Georgia.”
“Considering the pending application to the European Court of Human Rights by President Saakashvili, and to ensure the recovery of Georgia’s democracy from the current political crisis, Saakashvili’s imprisonment should be suspended until he faces trial, in fair judicial proceedings, for any charges levied against him,” the letter reads.
Among the 72 signatories are 26 MEPs, 27 Lithuanian MPs, lawmakers from Poland, Estonia and the Czech Republic, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Eka Tkeshelashvili, Former Minister of Defense David Sikharulidze, Former Ambassador of Georgia to the USA, Former Deputy Minister of Defense Batu Kutelia, and founder of the Georgian opposition movement “Droa” Elene Khoshtaria.
The third president of Georgia, now a citizen of Ukraine who chairs the Executive Committee of the Ukrainian National Reforms Council, after being in political exile for eight years, was arrested in Tbilisi on October 1, ahead of October 2 municipal elections. Saakashvili faces several criminal charges in Georgia such as violent dispersal of anti-government mass protests on November 7, 2007, unlawful raiding of Imedi television company by riot police, exceeding official powers by using violence and appropriation or embezzlement of budget money in large quantities. He has been recently charged for illegally crossing the border from Ukraine to Georgia.