EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell said that some of the MEPs that penned letters of concern over ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s detention “play an important role in the European Parliament on foreign policy issues, including on the Eastern Partnership region and Georgia.”
Ambassador Hartzell was responding to reporters in Georgia’s coastal city of Batumi, about Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s October 20 scathing criticism of the MEPs. He refused to comment on the contents of the letter, as well as the ruling Georgian Dream officials’ responses.
“When it comes to the comments made by individual MEPs it is for them to argue these points,” he stressed, adding “I think it would be unfortunate for me to speculate.”
As for Saakashvili’s imprisonment, the Ambassador said the EU Delegation is following the case very closely, stressing that the 27-member-bloc expects “transparent, fair and due judicial process” in the cases against the ex-President.
Ambassador Hartzell pointed out that “fundamental rights and the rule of law” are key for the EU in this context. He said the EU Delegation also consults with key stakeholders, including the Public Defender of Georgia on the issue.
In the context of Saakashvili’s imprisonment, the EU Ambassador also stressed the importance of upholding the prisoner’s rights, as well as international commitments and principles.
Saakashvili, arrested on October 1, has been on a hunger strike since. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, he arrived covertly in Georgia’s Poti port in a cargo ship late on September 28.
He had 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.
Prosecutor’s Office has now brought new charges against him under Article 344 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, involving illegal border crossing and punishable by three to five years of prison.
- MEPs, Foreign MPs, Former Officials Call for Saakashvili’s Release
- EU Delegation on October 2 Elections