Multiple members of the European Parliament, Lithuanian MPs as well as former leaders of Latvia, Ukraine and Sweden have called for the release of jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili.
The joint letter is addressed to European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Parliament President David Sassoli. The missive is signed by 26 MEPs, 27 Lithuanian MPs, one lawmaker each from Poland, Estonia and the Czech Republic, among others.
“Considering the pending application to the European Court of Human Rights by President Saakashvili, and to ensure the recovery of Georgia’s democracy from the current political crisis, Saakashvili’s imprisonment should be suspended until he faces trial, in fair judicial proceedings, for any charges levied against him,” the signatories asserted.
Pointing to “no public trust in the justice system in Georgia,” they also stressed that “some element of international observation must be put in place to help calm tensions as this process moves ahead.”
The signatories highlighted that the EU-mediated April 19 deal, which the Georgian Dream quit, “clearly stated” that the “era of politically motivated justice should finally end in Georgia.” The missive stressed that Saakashvili’s release should pave the way for a “renewed stabilization agreement” in Georgia.
“Every day that the Georgian government continues to pursue the politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment of its political rivals and predecessors is another day that worsens the cycle of extreme political polarization in Georgia,” the signatories highlighted.
This makes the unity of political forces for the sake of national priorities impossible, they argued, adding that extreme polarization also “erodes the democratic institutions that are Georgia’s best security from the existential threats it still faces.”
“We know where this pattern leads. There is no option of silence now,” the signatories noted.
They highlighted that Saakashvili’s arrest only “serves” to deepen Georgia’s political crisis following years of “extreme polarization.” The latter resulted from “attempts to control the free press; to intimidate and surveil journalists, opposition politicians, activists, and even foreign diplomats; and to limit the space and resources for political opposition to the government,” according to the signatories.
The missive stressed that charges against Saakashvili “are known to be politically motivated,” and were “never internationally recognized.” The signatories argued that “no one moved to detain or extradite him as he continued to work and travel abroad.”
The letter is also signed by several Georgian politicians and former Ambassadors.
See the full list of signatories here.
Saakashvili, now a Ukrainian citizen, left the country in November 2013 amidst the end of his second presidential term. He was wanted by the Georgian Dream government on multiple charges for some eight years.
The former President 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.
Since October 1, Georgian authorities are leading a new investigation over Saakashvili’s illegal border crossing. In this regard, new charges may be brought against him under Article 344 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, punishable by three to five years of prison.