“The fact, that in Georgia the leader of the opposition and former President is in jail, raises the question about political nature of the persecution,” said MEPs Andrius Kubilius, Rasa Juknevičienė, Riho Terras, Miriam Lexmann, and Sandra Kalniete. They stressed that public statements by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili “only confirm political motives” behind the cases against Saakashvili and are “totally unacceptable in a European-type justice system.”
The MEPs called for Saakashvili’s release while the European Court of Human Rights is considering his case. Meanwhile, the EU will closely watch the deliberations of the ECHR and act upon its conclusions, they highlighted.
Citing “[Viktor] Yanukovych-time Ukraine” the MEPs said in young European democracies – “still struggling with post-totalitarian post-soviet habits” – the imprisonment of an opposition leader, or an ex-President or a former PM signals that rule of law may be deteriorating.
The MEPs laid responsibility for resolving the issue with the Georgian Government and the ruling Georgian Dream party: “They stand before a choice – to keep mitigating negative consequences, fuelling polarisation and mistrust internally and internationally as long as Mr Saakashvili stays in jail, or to return their focus on efforts to uphold the rule of law and European-type justice standards crucial to Georgia’s European aspirations.”
Ruling Party Retorts
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili lashed out at MEPs over letter. Responding to journalists, the PM said “neither [MEP Anna] Fotyga nor [MEP Andrius] Kubilius, nor anyone else, represent anything for myself or our country. There are 700 MEPs in the European Parliament, we can’t dance to the tune of either Fotyga or Kubilius. Let everyone take care of their own country, nobody can stand in the way of fulfilling the law and justice in this country.”
PM also argued the MEPs were linked with “personal friendship” with ex-President Mikheil Saakasvhili, singling out MEP Raphaël Glucksmann, a signatory of another letter calling for Saakashvili’s release.
According to the PM, the MEP was “an advisor to Saakashvili and involved in constructing his dictatorial regime.” He said “this man, who was there [with Saakashvili] all this time when the terror reigned in the country, violence, hardship, torture in prisons, rape of prisoners, killings […] dares to lecture us.”
Asked to comment on the MEPs’ statement, ruling party chair Irakli Kobakhidze struck a similar chord. “The same faces, the same lobbyists have been talking since 2012 that arresting someone, sending a criminal to jail is not allowed,” he said, adding such statements “contribute to polarization” in the country.
He argued, that calls by “some MEPs” for the release of Giorgi Rurua and Gigi Ugulava, in a process that led to March 8 and April 19 agreements with the opposition, was an example of “interference in Georgian justice.” “We have put a full stop to this, I can assure you,” MP Kobakhidze said.
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