Margvelashvili Says Saakashvili ‘Imprisoned on Political Grounds’

Former President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili told government-critical TV Pirveli channel on October 8 that his predecessor Mikheil Saakashvili “is imprisoned on political grounds under the circumstances of the current government.” 

Margvelashvili, who was elected with the Georgian Dream in 2013 but became a vocal critic of the party during his presidential term, argued this is because the GD government is “authoritarian,” and “no longer has the moral right” to try Saakashvili. 

In the interview, Margvelashvili had also noted he cannot prove that Saakashvili has not committed a crime, but highlighted that in parts of the cases against his predecessor the charges are “absurd.”  

Particularly, Margvelashvili said the misappropriation of public funds case, in which Saakashvili is charged, is “absolutely comical.” He added the president has a constitutional right to issue a pardon, referring to Saakashvili being convicted for abuse of power over pardoning former Interior Ministry officials sentenced in a murder case

“It is legally absurd to try a constitutional right under the criminal code,” Margvelashvili said.

Former President Margvelashvili also stressed Saakashvili could “theoretically” have to answer to a court, “but not in Georgia, under the circumstances of this government and court…”

He also pointed out that despite Saakashvili being charged in absentia by Georgia, other countries did not decide to “detain and hand over” the former President. “None of our partners recognize the fairness of our judiciary,” Margvelashvili added.  

Stressing that he had opposed Saakashvili since the latter’s “very first day in politics,” Margvelashvili said he has to recognize “the political weight” and “personal courage” of the wanted ex-President’s decision to return to Georgia.

Expressing concern that the third President of Georgia, Saakashvili, “now sits in the prison and is on a hunger strike,” Margvelashvili stressed, “no matter how much I like [him] or not I am a citizen of Georgia and I know this is a difficult event for my country.” 

Margvelashvili said he is concerned that the third President of Georgia “now sits in the prison and is on a hunger strike.”  

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

He is also charged with misappropriation of public funds and exceeding official authority in the 2007 anti-government protests case. Former President denies all the charges as politically motivated.

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.

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