In a late-night interview with pro-government Imedi TV on October 3, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili talked extensively about the arrest of former President Mikheil Saakashvili and ended the interview by warning the Georgian Dream government’s arch-rival of facing new charges.
“[Saakashvili’d better] behave, otherwise, we will bring more articles [charges against him],” the Prime Minister said, responding to Saakashvili’s letter from jail, in which he called on UNM leader Nika Melia, Tbilisi mayoral hopeful, to “go on a constant and much stronger attack” in the runoffs.
PM Irakli Garibashvili reassured the public that the law enforcement knew all about Saakashvili’s arrival to Georgia and was waiting for a “necessary” moment to detain him.
Referring to ex-President as “crazy,” “sick man” throughout the interview, the PM alleged Saakashvili planned “a dirty provocation” allegedly involving a murder of several opposition leaders. The scenario, PM Garibashvili said, was averted by the government.
According to the Prime Minister, on October 3, after the polling day, the opposition planned to organize a rally on Freedom Square. In the evening, Saakashvili would “appear as the Savior, causing shock and stirring emotions.”
“[On that day] they could probably mobilize about 10,000 persons. Of course, then, the police would be forced to arrest him [Saakashvili]. We would need to use the special [police] gear as well. They considered killing several opposition leaders at this time,” PM Garibashvili claimed.
The PM said the goal of this alleged action was to delegitimize the government in the eyes of the West and create grounds for demanding government resignation and early elections.
“Everybody was tired [of him]. We should have either arrested him or he should have quit politics,” Irakli Garibashvili pointed out, adding “but this man is not quitting politics, he does not apologize, he does not beg forgiveness.”
Noting he is grateful to Saakashvili that he came back to Georgia on his own accord, the PM vowed that the former President would serve his full six-year prison sentence in “comfortable conditions.”
Saakashvili, who left the country in November 2013 amidst the end of his second presidential term, was wanted by the Georgian Dream government on multiple charges. He was sentenced in absentia in 2018 on two separate abuse of power charges – three years for pardoning the former Interior Ministry officials, convicted in the high-profile murder case of Sandro Girgvliani, and six years for organizing an attack on opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili.
The Prosecutor’s Office said in a late-night briefing on October 1 that the Interior Ministry is leading an investigation over Saakashvili’s illegal border crossing. In this regard, new charges may be brought against Saakashvili under Article 344 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, punishable by three to five years of prison.
The article was updated at 17:07 on October 4, 2021. The final quote was amended for context and clarity