Georgian prosecutor’s office said on July 28 that it filed criminal charges against former president Mikheil Saakashvili.
Prosecutor’s office said that charges of exceeding official authorities stem from breaking up of the November 7, 2007 anti-government protests, as well as raid on and “seizure” of Imedi TV station and other assets owned at the time by tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who died in February, 2008.
Prosecutor’s office said decision was made to also file same charges against Vano Merabishvili, who was interior minister in 2007; then chief prosecutor Zurab Adeishvili; then defense minister Davit Kezerashvili and Gigi Ugulava, who at the time was Tbilisi mayor.
Saakashvili, who left Georgia after his second and final presidential term expired in November, 2013, was summoned by prosecutors for questioning for July 28 for a second time in last four months.
Commenting on his summoning by prosecutors, Saakashvili said in a post on his Facebook page earlier on July 28 that making him next target of Georgian Dream ruling coalition’s political “revenge” against previous authorities will strain Georgia’s relations with its Western allies. He also said that legal proceedings against him aim at “pleasing Russia”.
“I will obviously not take part in this farce,” Saakashvili wrote.
In a lengthy statement on decision to file criminal charges against Saakashvili and several other former senior officials, Prosecutor’s office laid out events in the lead up to break up of the November, 2007 protests and its aftermath, saying that previous authorities were aiming to take over Imedi TV to silence its critical reporting of government. It said that the authorities were even ready to hand over state-owned Georgian Railway to Patarkatsishvili in exchange for Imedi TV.
In early November, 2007, opposition parties launched protests rallies, backed by Patarkatsishvili, which were dispersed on November 7. Prosecutor’s office said that dispersal in which excessive force was used by the police deliberately to intimidate protesters and to deter them from further rallies, was carried out “upon criminal orders from ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili” and was executed upon then interior minister Merabishvili’s instructions. Prosecutor’s office said that deployment of army units in Tbilisi center during dispersal of the protest was also violation of the law.
Prosecutor’s office said that raid on the Imedi TV and putting it off the air later on the same day, November 7, 2007, was part of the authorities’ plan to seize pro-opposition television channel. Seizure, prosecutor’s office, said was formally finalized after Patarkatsishvili’s death, when late tycoon’s associate had to give up Imedi TV’s shares through intimidation and pressure from the authorities. Prosecutor’s office said that seizure of the Imedi TV was carried out by then Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava and then defense minister Davit Kezerashvili upon orders from then president Saakashvili. After the developments in November, 2007 Saakashvili stepped down and was re-elected in disputed snap presidential election in January, 2008.
Defense lawyers, representing former officials in question, said they have yet to see the case file and evidence based on which their clients would face criminal charges. In February, 2014 Merabishvili, who is now jailed, was sentenced by the Tbilisi City Court to prison terms in two separate trials, one of them related to exceeding official powers in case involving break up of protest rally in Tbilisi in May, 2011. Ugulava is now in pre-trial detention pending trial in money laundering charges; he is already standing trial in number of other criminal charges, one of them related to Imedi TV. Kezerashvili is wanted in Georgia for other, unrelated criminal charges, but court in France declined Georgia’s request to extradite him.
“Illegal actions of then Georgian government and its head Mikheil Saakashvili resulted in: infringement of property right of the Patarkatsishvili family; right of assembly and demonstration was infringed and many people suffered injuries [as a result of dispersal of the rally on November 7, 2007]; illegal interference in and obstruction to the work of independent media,” prosecutor’s office said.
“Investigation is ongoing under the part three of article 333 of the criminal code [exceeding official powers, committed more than once with use of violence and insult of victim’s dignity], which carries imprisonment from 5 to 8 years,” prosecutor’s office said.
It also said that investigation is on its final stage into multiple other cases over which Saakashvili was summoned for questioning in March, 2014.
“Public will be informed about results of these [investigations] in the nearest future,” prosecutor’s office said.