The Prosecutor’s Office has greenlighted today charging jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili over the illegal crossing of the state border, under Article 344 (1) of the Criminal Code. Prosecutors are expected to press charges today.
The charge would carry a prison term of three to five years. The Prosecutor’s Office said the investigation found that Saakashvili arrived in Georgia from Ukraine at 23:00 on September 28. The ex-President traveled from Chernomorsk port in Ukraine to Poti port in Georgia via a ship named “Vilnius,” the prosecution said.
According to the investigation, at 01:04 on September 29, a cargo truck carrying dairy products and Mikheil Saakashvili came down from the vessel. The prosecution said the truck belonged to and was driven by Elguja Tsomaia, a recently detained suspected accomplice.
Investigators reported that Tsomaia stopped the truck before leaving the port three times. During the last stop, Tsomaia opened the truck’s storage and Saakashvili came out, moving on to sit in the cabin, according to the prosecution.
“With this action, Mikheil Saakashvili unlawfully crossed the Georgian state border by bypassing state control,” the Prosecutor’s Office highlighted.
Afterward, Saakashvili and Tsomaia were transported by Zurab and Shalva Tsotsoria, both recently detained and charged, from the Poti Customs Clearance Zone to the village of Tkviri of Abasha Municipality in western Samegrelo.
The prosecution said that later on September 29, Tsomaia brought back the cargo truck to the village with the help of Giorgi Narimanidze, also a detained suspected accomplice.
According to the report Saakashvili and Tsomaia then left for coastal Batumi city and after returning to the village of Tkviri in the night, departed for Tbilisi in the said cargo truck with Narimanidze.
According to the investigation, Tsomaia then provided his flat in Tbilisi for Saakashvili to hide. Police detained the ex-President in the flat on October 1.
All four suspected accomplices were detained on charges of concealing a serious crime. Tsomaia was charged additionally with assisting Saakashvili in crossing the state border.
- Saakashvili’s Return: One More Suspected Accomplice Detained
- Saakashvili’s Return: Three Suspected Accomplices Charged
Saakashvili’s defense responds to new charges
One of Saakashvili’s defense lawyers, Dimitri Sadgzaglishvili called the prosecution’s announcement “smile-inducing.” He claimed that Saakashvili, wanted on multiple charges during his arrival, having the ability to travel across Georgia unchecked means that the security system has “collapsed.”
He argued the authorities “will not dare” to set up a court hearing for the new charges, “at least until Mikheil Saakashvili is able to walk and participate in the court hearing.” The ex-President has been on a hunger strike since his arrest, with reports continuously emerging on his deteriorating health.
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.
This article was updated at 12:31 on October 21. Remarks by Mikheil Saakashvili’s lawyer, Dimitri Sadzaglishvili, were added.