The Prosecutor’s Office has charged two persons who transported Mikheil Saakashvili to Georgia’s western Samegrelo region after he “illegally crossed the border on September 29,” and one individual who provided his flat in Tbilisi for the ex-President to hide.
The prosecution said today the two persons were detained on October 3, and have been charged under Article 375 (2) of the Criminal Code, involving concealment of a serious crime without prior promise, and envisaging one to four years in prison.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the two persons knew that Saakashvili was wanted by the authorities but still transported him with an automobile to a village in the Samegrelo region, from where the ex-President traveled to Tbilisi, the capital.
Lawyer Giorgi Goginava, representing the two men in court, said there was no evidence to corroborate current charges and that the case was politically motivated. “Georgia has two more political prisoners,” he told reporters on October 5 and added that they would “formally” appeal the court’s decision.
Earlier, on October 3, prosecutors pressed charges against the other individual, for providing his own flat to Saakashvili also under Article 375 (2) of the Criminal Code. The person was detained on October 1, the same day as Saakashvili’s arrest.
The defendant’s lawyer Beka Basilaia said his client was illegally detained and demanded his immediate release. According to him, Georgia’s Criminal Code has no particular article specifically pertained to harboring the offender. Instead, it stipulates about the concealment of a crime. “The Article 375 applies when a person conceals an offender when the investigation has not yet started, or when it has not yet identified the offender.”
He also pointed out that “everyone in the world” knows about Saakashvili’s conviction. Applied the same logic, American senators and members of the European Parliament, with whom Saakashvili had ever visited, had to be convicted as well, Basilaia added.
On October 4, scores of opposition politicians, activists, and supporters organized a protest to near the N12 prison in the southern town of Rustavi, where Saakashvili is held, demanding the release of the former President.
Saakashvili, currently a citizen of Ukraine, left the country in November 2013 amid 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 on October 6, at 3:50 pm, with statements from the defense lawyers.