On April 2, eleven members of European Parliament, including Ana Gomes (Portugal, S&D), Michael Gahler (Germany, EPP) and Rebecca Harms (Germany, Greens/EFA), sent a letter to Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze urging “a prompt and thorough investigation” of the death of Ia Kerzaia, the principal of Public School N6 in Zugdidi, who was reportedly pressured to join the campaign of ruling party-endorsed candidate Salome Zurabishvili in last year’s presidential polls.
In the letter MEPs said that “days before Mrs Kerzaia suffered a stroke, which eventually resulted in her death, she publicly stated and also informed the Public Defender of Georgia of an intense pressure with the purpose of joining the campaign to the then ruling party-endorsed candidate, Salome Zurabishvili, and now President of Georgia.”
“We believe it is in the best interest of Georgia and its democratic future that the case of Mrs Kerzaia is investigated in a comprehensive and timely manner by the Prosecutor’s Office and the judicial authorities in the country, so that the perpetrators are brought to justice,” the MEPs said.
They further noted that the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia “should also clarify the standards and methodology of school inspections and refrain from using such mechanism in the pre-election period.”
“In fact, we, friends of Georgia in the European Parliament, expect that the government of Georgia ensure that no public servant becomes subject of any pressure in any forthcoming election campaign and, in that regard, we believe that it is of the utmost importance to clarify the circumstances around the case of Mrs Kerzaia,” reads the letter.
The same group of MEPs sent another letter to High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini on April 2.
In this letter, they urged Mogherini “to exert pressure on the Georgian leadership to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the opposition regarding the electoral reform,” in particular at her future exchanges with the Georgian government and through the EU Delegation to Georgia.
It both letters, the MEPs referred also to the assessment of the international observation mission, which they believed was “one of the most critical assessments since 1991,” and among others gave instances of “pressure and intimidation especially on public sector employees and groups dependent on state allowances” in election period.