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President of Georgia Emphasizes Alternative Approaches and Responsible Action in Saakashvili Case

By Liza Mchedlidze
Friday, June 16, 2023
During an interview with Ukrainskaya Pravda, President Salome Zourabichvili expressed that while Georgians are humane and tolerant, there is a prevailing sentiment among the population that Saakashvili should be held accountable for certain crimes committed during his regime.

The journalist highlighted that Mikheil Saakashvili is a Ukrainian citizen, and President Volodymyr Zelensky has made multiple requests to the Georgian authorities for his return to Ukraine. When asked about her refusal to pardon Mikheil Saakashvili and whether she faces any external pressure regarding this matter, Salome Zourabichvili emphasized that her primary responsibility is to the Georgian people.

Zourabichvili emphasized her responsibility to the Georgian people and the need to find a solution that upholds their sentiments while treating Saakashvili with dignity. Although there hasn't been an extradition request, Zourabichvili is actively working with the diplomatic community and European connections to explore potential solutions. She expressed disappointment at the government's lack of response and underlined their responsibility to address the situation. President Zourabichvili also emphasized that there has been no extradition request regarding Mikheil Saakashvili.

"As the president, I have to take into account what the Georgian people feel. Georgian people went through nine years of Saakashvili's regime, which left many victims. This is an issue that still divides the population of Georgia. It is not the case that the Georgian people believe that Saakashvili is not guilty. They may have disagreed that he may not have been treated the way a president should be treated. Georgians are very humane, very tolerant, but the feeling of the population is that Saakashvili should pay for some of the crimes committed during his regime - maybe not by him personally, but under his leadership. This is the feeling in general. At the same time, there is a feeling that it is necessary to treat him with dignity and find a solution. I note that there was no extradition request. All this is the responsibility of the government. Pardoning is a moral issue for which I am responsible to people who are different. However, I am working with the diplomatic community, with my connections in Europe, and I am trying to work with the authorities to find a solution that is more in line with how the former president should be treated. Unfortunately, there has been no response from the government yet. They can respond to an extradition request in different ways, but they must react. They are responsible for this decision," said Salome Zourabichvili.

When asked about the potential impact of the Saakashvili issue on the friendship between Ukraine and Georgia, the President of Georgia emphasized that the relations between the two countries transcend this particular issue.

"I hope not, and I think not. I believe that our relations are above that. This is a very serious matter because it concerns the former president, although I will say again that the first judge in this matter is the Georgian people who went through those years. From outside the country, it is always very difficult to judge how this or that regime affected or did not affect the population. So this is probably something to consider as well. I am sure that we will be able to find a way out of this situation," said Zurabishvili.

To the question whether or not The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky personally approached her to pardon Saakashvili, Zourabichvili stated that numerous individuals have approached her with this request.

The President explained that pardoning Saakashvili is not a suitable solution due to the sentiments of the Georgian people. Instead, she emphasized the need to explore other options and apply pressure where responsibility lies and where change can be made. The government, according to her, should find more relevant approaches, mentioning the use of electronic bracelets. She acknowledged that the issue is not unique and that many presidents in different countries have faced similar trials. However, she emphasized the importance of adhering to generally accepted approaches in resolving such difficulties.