The panel of judges allowed jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili to deliver a political address today, during the Tbilisi City Court hearing in the criminal case on exceeding official authority in 2007.
Below is the full speech delivered by Saakashvili. It contains several denigrating remarks towards some national groups and persons based on their places of origin.
“I would like to, first of all, greet the people standing outside, greet the Georgian public and ask a question. Those several days, when I walked freely in Georgia before I was taken hostage, I had the possibility to interact with people, and I saw that people very sullen, people are very downcast. People practically do not smile, people are very miserable.
I would like to tell you, my lovely Georgian people, I would like to ask you: Do you not miss feeling proud of your country? Do you not miss the pace and drive of the development? Do you not miss novelty and development? Do not miss love and warmth? Do you not miss celebrating victory? If you miss all of these, then we must together end everything that is happening now.
I would like to begin with why I am in this hall and why I am in Georgia today. I am here because, you know that I am the Chair of the Executive Reform Committee in the largest European country, which gathers every month – now it has not gathered for two months because of understandable reasons – which comprises of Ukraine’s President, Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker, every Minister, General Prosecutor and is occupied with preparing necessary reforms for the Ukrainian Parliament.
With my input, the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian legislature] endorsed several crucial legislation prepared by me. For example the law on land ownership, a legislative package; [The law on] construction permits, which would not hurt Georgia either as this sector has huge corruption; [Legislation] on electricity, and before my departure, I left them the economic liberty act of Ukraine, which we had in Georgia but this Government repealed it. I also finished a fundamental package of healthcare reforms in Ukraine.
I held a very significant position in Ukraine. What is more is that as per an IPSOS poll, when they asked the public who they wished as Ukraine’s Prime Minister, I was the first on the list. And even more, I have at least twice refused the premiership during [Petro] Poroshenko [presidency]. As for the material side, I have never been as well off as I was in Ukraine. I had a house, a high salary, I was respected, and I read lectures around the world. For example, recently, I read a lecture to 600 millionaires and billionaires about the tax code at the most fashionable resorts in Mexico, and of course, I get paid for each of these lectures.
But just like this, I put all of these aside, temporarily at least, and arrived in Georgia, where I was sure I would either be killed en route, or killed during arrival just how they did to Zviad Gamsakhurdia [Georgia’s first president, died in mysterious circumstances] or I would be put in a cell, from where my chances of release as we are all convinced are the minimum.
Probably a lot of people will say about all of these that I am not in my right mind. What can force a man to refuse everything I mentioned before – luxury, respect, [official] position in the largest European country – put all of it aside and jump into a whirlpool that he has very low chances of escaping?
But there is something that drives me more than anything … [Editorial note: Saakashvili goes on to address the public in Ukrainian] … there is something that drives me more than anything; and it is the reason why I am here. Indeed I really love Ukraine, where I have spent more than seventeen years of my life, but I am madly in love with Georgia, where I was born and raised, in a loving family.
My grandmother Mzia [Tsereteli, renowned doctor] passed away quite recently and I could not attend her funeral due to obvious reasons. Georgia is the country, where I was taught by teachers like Gela Charkviani [famous Georgian diplomat, writer, teacher] and Manana Chavchavadze. I received a letter in prison from my first teacher, Nineli Tatarashvili, who taught me by using the most innovative books by Shalva Amonashvili at the First Experimental School, and also from Klara Chkhaidze, my Georgian Language and Literature teacher at the School No. 51. I will not hide the fact that I cried a lot in the cell while reading these letters. I did not have such a reaction to anything else.
I know that in his last days of life, Gela Charkviani [passed away on November 9, 2021] was the first signatory to the petition demanding my release. I learned about his passing before I temporarily lost consciousness in prison hospital No. 18 and it was a huge blow for me. Gela used to say that I had been the best student in his life and I simply had no opportunity to meet and tell him that he was the best teacher I ever had.
It is kind of mystical – a couple of days before I learned about Gela’s death, I saw his apartment on Peking street in my dream, as well as Irakli Charkviani [Gela Charkviani’s son, popular musician, also deceased], who was a friend of mine, saying that Gela was out and would return soon. I learned about his death a couple of days later.
I want to say that every night I had dreams about Georgia, Batumi, Abkhazia, a stadium in my yard, where I used to play football on Peking street, and the feeling that I and we, as Georgians, are losing everything became more and more unbearable.
You know that in 2008, the Russians sent a message through the French, [President Nicolas] Sarkozy, and the Americans that they planned to enter Tbilisi the next morning and that my family and I had to leave Georgia. They shelled and destroyed the Kopitnari airport, which we restored later and it looks absolutely different now, they bombed the surroundings of the Batumi airport, Tbilaviamsheni airport. The only place they did not bomb was Tbilisi International Airport and they did it for one reason to – allow Saakashvili to flee abroad together with his friends and relatives. I will not hide that some Americans, my friends, also advised me to do it, because otherwise, Russians would have entered Tbilisi and done what [President Vladimir] Putin promised Sarkozy, to hang me by one place and destroy my family. So, to make a decision on what I should have done, I only took two or three minute.
I recollected that in 1921 – and I have thought about it many times – when the Bolshevik army entered Tbilisi, the Georgian government left for Batumi first, then for Istanbul and finally France. I have visited the Leuville estate many times, which they had purchased where they lived, and I know that after 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years [of exile], they, already old, were sitting and discussing stories about Georgia, which they could never see in their life. I thought that I would never put myself in the same situation. My departure from Tbilisi meant the entry of Russian troops in Tbilisi and hanging a Russian flag in Tbilisi. This was the content of this ultimatum. [For example] In Afghanistan, the President left the capital under similar circumstances and the other force [Taliban] immediately entered it.
My favorite President, Ronald Reagan used to say that we are always one generation away from losing independence and I will regrettably say that probably, the time has come when this is what is happening in front of us right now. This is the objective reality. When I arrived in Batumi, I walked the streets to see there are a lot of Russians there. Russians differ from each other; there are some quite lowbred, provincial Russians, of obscure ancestry, who are buying 70% of apartments built there. I saw that prison… [Editorial note: inaudible] a lot of products are sold, elementary things. There are a lot of Russian channels translated into Georgian on TV. By the way, no such things happen in Ukraine because it is prohibited there, since Ukraine is Ukraine, the country fighting against Russia, just like Georgia.
I arrived because I have heard from many Georgians that I had to return; I have heard from thousands of my compatriots whom I come across in various airports; those compatriots whom I was meeting at large gatherings of emigrants in Europe and the United States that we should return to Georgia.
The latest was my 15-year-old son, Nikusha, who said it should happen either immediately or never, because we will lose our country. I learned about it from Sandra, whom I trust very much and with whom we raised two exceptional children.
I come across Sandra’s deeds everywhere, including in the penitentiary system, where she did a lot of good deeds in terms of inmate healthcare, screening and a lot of other things. We have never been billionaires – if we had a USD 800 salary in the 1990s, USD 400 was spent on charity.
In addition, a very important person from Tbilisi told me in Ukraine that if I did not arrive now, we would lose our homeland and the opinion of this person was very important for me.
Finally, my mother, who is sitting in this chamber and who is Professor of History of Georgia, told me that she, as a mother, does not want me to risk my life, but as a patriot of Georgia, she understands that we are in a grave situation, saying that she is not only my mother and we should do something because we are in a very bad situation.
Of course, many got to know my Ukrainian friends as well; Lisa Yasko was in Tbilisi and said there was a catastrophe going on in our country. She told me that many unemployed people stand on the street corners. In Ukraine you cannot see a young man standing on the street corners, there everyone has a job. Here, what shocked her most of all was that on every step of the way there were people standing on the the street corners and sad people. She also told me that it was time for me to help this country.
You know what has been happening in Georgia after my presidency. The currency exchange rate depreciated two-fold. In comparison to [Eduard] Shevardnadze [administration], after the start of my presidency we strengthened the currency rate by 28%, and strengthened it even more afterward, and that currency has now depreciated two-fold, the prices increased three-fold. The salaries of civil servants have almost not increased, just as they practically have not increased in the private sector. People are running away from here en masse. It is a tragedy, that a young officer, who received the best American education and who was a commander of one of the directions of Georgian armed forces, which I created, [had to strart] practically from zero now works as a loader in New Jersey, wasting his best years on this work.
It is a tragedy that Officer Tsertsvadze – who was the first [person] in history after the Second World War, on a global scale, to down a strategic Russian bomber, TU22 – left because he was being persecuted, being persecuted by the people who killed our special unit officers who were hostages of Russia, who imprisoned Roman Shamatava, a true hero of our country. [He] left with his family and stayed as a refugee in a camp in Germany.
It is a tragedy, that in Polish airports,for example in Warsaw, where there are constant queues of Georgians, with planes landing after one another to transport Georgians to Polish factories, where they are paid pennies – EUR 700-800 at most – and they pay part of this sum in accommodation. From Wrocław Airport, another Polish airport, Georgians are taken to Germany to gather strawberries, practically, [being treated] as slaves.
We have lost our 700,000 compatriots over the past nine years, as of early 2021. And, at least 100,000 were added to this number this year. Look at the statistical data, during the eight out of nine years of Saakashvili’s presidency, more Georgians returned to the country than left. What they [GD Government] managed in nine years, it used to take our [historical] feudal lords 70 years – to sell our boys and girls from Anaklia to Rabati on the Istanbul Bazaar. It took them [GD Government] practically seven or eight years.
Georgia’s economy has developed into an economy just as how Venezuela was, or how Moldova was before. The key model is that all local resources belong to an oligarchy or one oligarch, one ruler, while the population earns a living by serving an oligarch or with the money remitted by relatives. This is how Georgia’s economic model looks like. There is no perspective besides poverty or running away.
I have met a lot of our women who mostly work as elderly caregivers in Greece and Italy. But due to their age, these women will soon need care themselves; they have no pensions, often they have no legal status or savings, because they are sending their whole money to their abandoned families [in Georgia]. This is a tragedy happening in front of us… I could not stay in Kyiv or sit in my office cabinet just above the Ukrainian President’s office in the Presidential Administration and watch from there how our country [Georgia] is being into pieces… There is a catastrophe in the country, which once was the number one reformer [Editorial note: here the prosecution interrupts Saakashvili].
Today, we are leading with the COVID-19 fatality rate. We were the world’s number one economic reformer. We were the fastest-growing economy in the world – the economy grew four-fold during my tenure. Let me remind you that following my presidency, Georgia’s economy grew by 0% [if you convert the numbers] in USD. Georgia actually lost the past nine years, because during the previous nine years, at war and global economic crisis, we had grown four-fold, our national wealth grew four-fold, Georgia’s budget increased 12-fold, salaries and pensions increased 10-fold, while over the past nine years, salaries actually decreased due to currency depreciation and economic stagnation. Is this not a tragedy? How can we take it calmly and accept it as normal?
Let me remind you that we are a country today that is being slapped on the head [reprimanded] by one or another ambassador. During my presidency, it was a country that three U.S. Presidents – [George] Bush, [Donald] Trump and [Joe] Biden and several Vice Presidents visited. This was the country, where six European leaders arrived when we were attacked [by Russia] and stood beside us on the [Parliament] square, risking their lives. This was the country, where the German Chancellor, Turkish President, four or five other leaders arrived during the war. A huge summit was held to protect Georgia, practically under the fire of the bombs. What they perceived as a concert was actually one of the most emotional pages in the history of Georgia (meaning protest in downtown Tbilisi during the war against Russian invasion on August 12, 2008, where Georgian singers performed patriotic songs – editor’s note), when six European leaders arrived in Tbilisi in front of hundreds of thousands of people and we managed to maintain and save our capital.
This was the country, where the Prince of Monaco opened tourist season; our opera season was opened by [José] Carreras and [Plácido] Domingo, the biggest singers in the world. When I became the President, everyone called me insane when I said that the number of tourists to Georgia would reach five million, but from 70,000 it actually increased to eight million. But I had not imagined the people wandering around now as tourists; I imagined the people who would pay five or six times more for the development of Georgian families and Georgia.
This was a country that used to build new cities. No matter how many times you rewrite history, Batumi was built by Saakashvili. If I had time, Lazika would have already been built and it would have been the most brilliant port on the Black Sea. Kutaisi turned into a new city because I had [worked on] a concept to develop the regions. This meant that the Kutaisi population would have been proud of living in such a great city, rather than a stagnant city, which they [GD] turned into a village, with cows grazing the grass outside the [former] Parliament [building in Kutaisi]. That is why we moved the Parliament to Kutaisi. We moved the Constitutional Court to Batumi. It was planned to locate the key financial hub of Georgia in Lazika. A terminal of the largest cruise company was under construction in in Batumi, which would have been the only one on the Blac Sea. I served as the governor of Odessa and even Odessa could only dream of what we did in Batumi.
Now, because we built this building, hung this flag, created this coat of arms, this anthem and what is most important, built the State and state institutions, which Georgia lacked for centuries, I became the first Georgian leader, following King Luarsab – it happened 400 years ago – who has been imprisoned. It is the greatest shame for everyone, who takes part in it. It is the greatest humiliation… I do not believe that they [the authorities] are Georgians. This is a classical Russian combination [scenario]; the entire world is dismayed as I address you from behind this glass, instead of being allowed to walk around [freely] together with you in the country I built and develop it further.
As for my charges, I have been convicted in two cases – one case is regarding a presidential pardon, the so-called Girgvliani case, which [in reality] has nothing to do with the Girgvliani case and was dubbed so only for PR purposes. Sandro Girgvliani’s death was a tragedy; the officers involved in the case were arrested. Following the 2008 war, an amnesty applied to 280 servicemen; one of those amnestied by me dragged me in[to] the Gldani prison [hospital] by my hair. In fact, it was not an amnesty, but rather the prison terms were halved.
Six months passed since [the amnesty], and two judges released them [the Girgvliani case convicts]. One of these judges is now trying me in the so-called Case of Suits [misappropriation of funds case]. Is it really this dark, people?
I will not even talk about the second case – the only testimony into Gelashvili’s case is [based on] classical hearsay as in ‘I heard that he heard [something].’ I have been convicted based on such a testimony, which would not be accepted in any judiciary of the world as evidence. And there is no surprise that when they delivered this sentence and sent it to Interpol, the latter laughed out and tore up your verdict over your heads… I talked to the deputy director of Interpol, who said that your[Georgia’s] prosecutor’s office is shameful [Editorial note: the prosecution again interrupts Saakashvili].
As for the November 7 case [exceeding official authority case] – Why do you keep airing the footage of November 7 [2007 police crackdown on opposition protest], which is very unpleasant for me to watch; and it is very tough for me to recall even till this day. [But] Did you not have the June 20 [2019 police dispersal of anit-occupation rally] just yesterday? Compare the number of people injured on June 20 and on November 7. Did Lekso Lashkarava’s murder, encouraged by the highest official of the country with his direct call, not happen just yesterday? But I would like to [instead] discuss what the geopolitical context was in Georgia back then [in 2007].
Georgia was on its path to NATO, in 2006, [when] Putin told me he would do anything to put this process to a halt. That year, President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka inquired with me about Arkadi [Badri] Patarkatsishvili [now-deceased tycoon spearheading opposition protests against Saakashvili], the Chair of the Olympic Committee, who he said wanted to visit Belarus and asked for permission to meet him [Lukashenka]. I told him nothing fruitful would come of it, so he did not host him. But then Patarkatsishvili arrived in Minsk anyways, and Lukashenka told me afterward that Putin had called to tell him it was not necessary to meet Patarkatsishvili and that ‘the boys would come and talk with him [instead].’ Three FSB generals arrived [in Minsk], as Lukashenka told me, who met Patarkatsishvili and [relayed from] Putin that he would become Georgia’s next president. This happened in September 2007.
After that, there were large demonstrations organized and financed by Patarkatsishvili. Patarkatsishvili’s money had completely come from Russia. The State Security Service probably keeps a letter from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which they sent in the fall of 2007, around October, saying that that crime bosses – [Aslan] Usoyan and several Georgian crime bosses – had arrived in Yerevan to organize a disturbance in the Georgian capital. This was a letter of warning from the FBI. In October 2007, Tbilisi hosted a historic conference. The NATO Secretary General, several Foreign Ministers, U.S. Ambassador to NATO and Deputy Secretary of State arrived for the conference, which continued for a few days; it was covered widely [by the media]… It was practically decided that Georgia would receive the [NATO] Membership Action Plan. They [visitors] were very impressed with the country upon departure. As soon as they had left, if I’m not mistaken, on October 30, this large demonstration was held in Tbilisi on November 2.
I do not believe that everyone who took to streets danced to the tune of Russia or was aware of Patarkatsishvili’s plans. But this was still a hard time, as we had undertaken tough reforms, [leading to] tens of thousands of policemen being left jobless. Many people could not get accustomed to the new way. Inflation back then was not as high as it is now, but still high enough. Indeed the [rate of] economic development was higher than it is now, but while some people were earning more [than before], others had become poorer. So, some people had objective reasons for being angry with us. So there was indeed a large demonstration, and we received this as a signal. [But] Patarkatsishvili arrived at the rally and delivered a speech which made everything clear, as to why and how this [rally] was being organized.
Then the protest rallies continued. In the morning of [November] 7, I was woken up and told that police had a minor with [the protesters], which later turned into something like what happened today outside the court. I was watching this [police dispersal] on the TV, I had not given any instruction and they were carrying out their duties as they understood it based on what experience our police had; which was back then very young and inexperienced.
God saved us in that no one died during the clashes, [only] one person was seriously injured. This happens in a lot of country, and no one even thinks of launching a case about this except distinguished maniacs. After these [events] I did what very few leaders have done in the world. I resigned, I reduced my presidential term by a year and a half and participated in the new presidential elections, which I won with difficulty; to receive a new mandate from the Georgian people. Why did I do this? [I did it] to foil Russia’s plans, so that these demonstrations and rallies would not obstruct our NATO integration. Then, in February , [U.S. President George W.] Bush invited me and told me that I had done something great, and what I did, my resignation, was why he was supporting me, because I was not clinging to power. The Georgian people delivered the verdict on this case [by electing me again.]
Now I want to move on to what happened after my arrival. I had to go through a path filled with thorns to get to Georgia… I knew that I would be arrested, and the only matter was would I be detained on the third day [of my arrival], on the fourth day, or [some time] else.. I did not even try to hide, as everyone knows well, but what happened then was what the MPs told me at the European Parliament before my departure for Georgia; they asked me if I thought that I would be tortured after arriving in Georgia. I had responded that they would not dare to, that who even tortures others in the 21st century. During my meetings at the U.S. Senate, one of the Senators told me they were scared for my personal safety, what [the authorities] may have done to me in the prison. I responded that in our prison, in the 21st century, no one would dare to do anything. Afterward [they took me] to the Rustavi #12 prison, where they immediately told me that I was not allowed to make phone calls because of one of these made-up [criminal] cases; where they sealed the window and made a fuss because I waved to some dozen people that had arrived outside [the prison] from the bathroom [window]. Now at least people can see my faces from beside this glass, because otherwise it was not allowed from other places.
After this [my arrest] I went on a hunger strike, and they were not allowing my doctors [to visit] at first, only the doctors of the establishment [were allowed.] Then, following pressure from the public, a state council [of doctors] was established, which recommended transferring me to a civilian multi-profile clinic as a preventive measure, as my [condition] was worsening in several ways. Afterward, the situation continued, as they did not allow my lawyers, barred the Ukrainian public defender from visiting; at times they did not allow me to meet my confessor. All of these have been recorded and relayed to the relevant instance.
Afterward, I had planned a meeting with my mother and my two sons, as well with the state council [of doctor]. They [authorities] always told me that either the council was busy, or my [family] was not able to visit. They were simply lying to me, and then the head of the penitentiary came to my cell to tell me that my appeal had been satisfied, and I would be transferred to a multi-profile civilian clinic. As I asked where this clinic was, the person reassured me that it was somewhere in Tbilisi and it was a good hospital. I told the person that I wished to know where it was, but the person said they could not tell me because of my own security, but reassured me that it was exactly what I had wanted. I still had not gotten used to such treachery, I was told to pack up in a hurry and they would send the rest of my things [to the clinic.] I got into the ambulance car. They took me, as it is known, to the Gldani prison hospital, where the prisoners knew beforehand that I was coming; because the ambulance door had not yet been opened, when it entered [the yard] the massive and continuous stream of noise began and the shouting of my name. No one knew that I was being taken there, everyone thought I was being taken to the Gori military hospital, but they [prisoners] somehow knew.
Then the door opened. I told them that no one had the right to transfer me to a medical facility without my permission as per the imprisonment code… and they responded that they would take me [out of the car] anyways. At this time I could also hear the continuing stream of noise, swearwords, insults to my mother. When I said I would not get out of the car, that I believed the [transfer] to be illegal and demanded to be taken back to the [Rustavi prison] as the Gldani clinic to every bit of information we had did not meet any requirements besides the fact that there were criminals which could morally terrorize me, they [penitentiary employees] dragged me out of the car by force. When I try to get out of their grasp, they hit me in the feet, in hands, there was an attempt to choke me and in the neck … [editorial note: inaudible] … They took off my shoes, removed and tore my top clothing and they dropped me off at the ward naked, insulting and beating me on the way. There their first attempt was to take my samples without my permission and I had an appropriate reaction.
This was not even a ward, it was simply a cell, which had a bed; there was not even a bell for me to ring if I needed to, for example in case of losing my consciousness… I could constantly hear during the days insults being shouted toward me, threats and all of this was organized by the administration. How do we know? Easily, [Public Defender Nino] Lomjaria came in completely covered up so that no one could recognize her, even I could not recognize her, but when he entered the facility the inmates shouted at her and insulted her. The prison administration told the inmates beforehand that ‘this is [Saakashvili’s lawyer Nika] Gvaramia, this is Lomjaria and you must now shout.’ Or for example, how were the inmates supposed to know when I was going down to the visitors’ room? For example I was meeting with [UNM MP] Khatia [Dekanoidze] and from outside we could hear our names and shouting. These were instances of torture and inhuman treatment organized and orchestrated by the prison administration, and international organizations and Empathy center have already taken note. I am sure that they are also included in the Public Defender’s report. These instances of torture and inhuman treatment were against the creator of the Georgian state. What does it matter, even if was not Saakashvili and it was [some person] Kibrotsashvili? After this, what right does anyone from the law enforcement system have to raise their voice?
After this, when I received emergency care, and when they did not have any multi-profile specialists, I was lucky to lose my consciousness [only] in the presence of my lawyers, and I was lucky that when that morning the chief doctor of the concentration camp looked at me and deemed that I was dying and she did not want that then the people who had organized my murder… and this was absolutely a deliberate murderous act, because all of my parameters were below the vital level, my foot was swollen, I practically could not even walk, or think and when this woman saw that I was dying, she urgently called the chief of the medical department Tamta Demurishvili and Guliko Kiliptari, as my personal doctor was not allowed [inside the prison clinic.] The latter [Kiliptari] is a resuscitator at the Republican Hospital. These were the circumstances when Guliko Kiliptari saved my life as I had lost consciousness for about 20 minutes, which is a very long time. Specialists know that during this time you can suffer from ischemic stroke, or the heart could stop, anything… I remember very well that Guliko was slapping me on the cheek and telling me not to die. I am grateful to this noble woman…
After that, instead of taking up the recommendation to transfer me to a multi-profile clinic, the Justice Ministry stated that my condition was normal, it had just slightly worsened and that their specialists would visit, take samples and decide whether I needed to be transferred or not. They [wanted] to bide some time, for me to die… I understand what that was. Afterward one of the doctors of the [Gldani prison hospital] facility came to see me … [Editorial note: the broadcast is interrupted].
A lot of people took to the streets and this is how my life was saved with the mobilization of the public. An intentional killing was happening… I will not even discuss the dissemination of my footage, the constant call for me to make my hunger strike more severe voiced by the highest officials, the kind offer that I had the right to suicide, questions about if I would live till the 41st day [of the hunger strike], bets on whether I would live 45 days or 49, made by various politicians. It was shameful for the Prime Minister to count bottles of honey, who essentially stated that the government was watching what I would be at the market in the prison. Things like this have not happened in any [Editorial note: inaudible] African country for a long time. Something like this could only happen in an inhuman, wild country. Things like this do not happen in Russia either, by the way, which you [GD government] worship, or in Belarus. Some rules still exist [there]. If it had not been for Public Defender Nino Lomjaria I would not be standing here today [Editorial note: the prosecution interrupts Saakashvili again]
If it had not been for Nino Lomjaria’s courage and the scrupulousness of the members of her commission [group of doctors], I would not be standing here in front of you, alive; because she essentially, together with the Empathy center and most importantly the people that took to the streets, saved not only my life but that of Elene Khoshtaria and other hunger-striking people, for which I am grateful. I am also grateful for Nika Melia, who did not give in to a provocation that was being prepared about my stay in Gldani. The organizer probably wanted this – to kill me and on the other hand to neutralize everything. A huge thank you to the United National Movement, which demonstrated fighting efficiency, but also restraint, and to each and every other person. [Editorial note: Saakashvili goes on to voice the same allegations about inhuman treatment and torture in English].
By the way, as we are discussing torture, I remember what Lech Kaczyński [former President of Poland] used to tell me. His closest ally Anna Fotyga was not allowed to visit me and was publicly humiliated. [She is] a devoted patriot of Georgia, former head of his administration and foreign minister. But Lech Kaczyński used to tell me that the difference between Europe and [Russia] was that when he was no longer a president in Europe, he would receive a special pension and everyone would treat him well, while in the Asian and Russian world [former Presidents] could be killed. Back then I thought he was exaggerating. Turns out the man was well aware of everything, he knew how the Russian world works.
While I have told about my successes, did I make mistakes? [I made] more than enough; many mistakes that I bitterly regret. First of all, my mistake was the court. I remember quite well, for example, my discussions with Nika Rurua [former Culture Minister] in 2011, when Nika used to tell me that if we did not ensure the courts were made fully independent, and if the people did not have the perception that they can find justice, anything that we had done would be wasted. Nika is no longer alive, but you would think that he guessed everything correctly. Thus, the mistake, that we could not establish an independent judiciary has affected many of my compatriots, as well as me. I apologize to everyone affected by this, just as all the other mistakes that inadvertently affected you. I apologize again, but mistakes and transgressions are one thing and crime is another. I am Mikheil Saakashvili and Georgia did not have a criminal president. I want every Georgian to know this. The founder of the Georgian state could not have been a criminal, because criminals do not establish states, they instead destroy them and you are [now] witnessing a classic example of that, as Georgia has fallen into the hands of bandits.
Of course, I was in a hurry to develop Georgia and anyone who is in a rush makes mistakes. I knew that we had little time, I know that many things needed to be done. But I was speaking with my doctor, who was able to arrive from a village and enroll in the medical university, only because there were national exams. Otherwise, there were no chances to enroll, and when they were coming [to Tbilisi in the past] people used to question them if they knew how much [the bribe for] enrolling would cost. [My doctor] arrived, believed in me and enrolled. The program of American teachers – many of the young generation can speak English, because we used to bring over 2,500 teachers a year. Not only my or Ivanishvili’s son were able to study, but any Georgian, from Lesichini village to Khulo and Zemo and Kveda Machkhaani. This was my concept.
Today when we are being dragged toward Russia, I just want to remind the public of the difference between the Russian world and the West. It is not what they tell you. I could not even imagine that a pro-Putin party would be openly registered. Not only did it register, they even broadcast. Russia is a country where violence and slavery are the way of life. In the West, people are selected as per their talents and skills and nepotism is irrelevant. I arrived in the U.S. as an ordinary student, with Sandra. We were very poor. In three years we both had great jobs and infinite [career] prospects. Even then I put aside these prospects and arrived in a famished and miserable Georgia. This is the West. The West gives you a chance. in the West, there are no clans. Russia is governed by clans. This is the system they have forced on us in Georgia, and they want us to conform.
Now they tell us that the society is polarized, split into two parts, which is absolute stupidity. This is an illusion created by the bots… and with internet manipulations and special channels. The absolute majority of the Georgian public are more united than ever before and are settled on their decision, now more than ever. Some of these people, in poverty, have fleed and others have been united by this poverty, misfortune and extreme hopelessness; and we will not allow anyone to kill this hope, this is why I am here, not to allow this hope to be extinguished and instead rekindle it. People, do not be afraid of [anyone/anything]. These people aired the footage of my torture – that serves as a verdict on their wrondoing – deliberately. Just like they killed Ia Kerzaia, how they killed Nugzar Putkaradze… They dragged in Lekso Rapava in the police station beaten and with torn top clothing, so that you do not dare. This is exactly why they are now purchasing that [Editorial note: Saakashvili does not specify what is being purchased] as they are preparing for a war against their own people. But we are many, we are in large numbers and my life belongs to Georgia. In this case, I am ready to sacrifice myself again. Just as I was ready for death in the Gldani prison [hospital], I am ready to die at any other place if Georgia needs me to; and if Georgia needs me to, I want my people to know that you should not put your hands down [give up], because you are many and very strong.
Remember October 14 [rally], I was not saved by foreigners and Lomjaria then, the people saved my by hitting the streets. People are a huge force and the illusion of a split [between the public] is only an illusion… A civil servant from Batumi, who had a GEL 2,500 salary, Dzneladze Rostomi, if I am not mistaken, quit his job. Many policemen quit their jobs when Lekso Rapava was unjustly repressed. Nugzar Putkaradze, a real hero, did not sell out. Would accepting the [offered] USD 100,000 have hurt him? But he did not sell out and that is what am proud of most of all.
So, we must all tell ourselves – this land is ours. We should not ask politicians [for help]; [or] Misha to return, saying if Misha does not arrive nothing will help us. Here I am, I arrived and put my life in your hands. If some politicians do not give us a plan, nothing can save us… Every person has not only the right to act, [but] an obligation to [do so], and I arrived here during a time when half a million people are running away from the country. Also, there are people who apply for the American green card and so on… I would like to tell you, that I went against the current. Zviad Gamsakhurdia used to say that only dead fish follow the water stream. I do not want to be a dead fish, and none of us should be a dead fish. So, action. I would also ask everyone to create committees for rescuing Saakashvili from Putin’s captivity in their yards, estate, villages. Because, for me to help you, I shall not sit surrounded by wardens, staring at this enclosed space. You know I have energy and the capability to help you.
I want to thank you, and by the way, before I express this gratitude, I would like to remind you how it [all] happened. [They said] they launched criminal cases because I was involved in politics. I would like to remind you that when they launched these criminal probes I was not involved in Georgian politics, what politics was I involved in? I was appointed as a governor of Odessa, as the governor of the largest Oblast, which has a population of three million and is one of the most strategic locations for Russia. This annoyed Putin. Could it have been coincidental that Putin instructed you to initiate the [criminal] case because I was [supposedly] involved in [Georgian] politics? Could it have been coincidental that the criminal cases were launched only a month after I was appointed as the governor of Odessa? What more confirmation do you need? Now Garibashvili says that they launched the proceedings because I was involved in politics. Indeed, I was involved in politics, but in Ukrainian politics, holding the highest [official] position in the [province], which caused Putin’s displeasure.
They are selling Georgia, they already sold it, to Russia, and those who are obligated to take it back are the people who [also] are GEL 2 million in debt from the banks and cannot pay it every five or six weeks. [It is the responsibility] of my Georgian people, poor but not downtrodden, as they would have liked. We saw on October 14 that no one is [lets themselves be] bullied.
I would like to address you my lovely people: Everyone knows that I should not be imprisoned. Everyone knows that these charges are fabricated. How come that I traveled to many countries of the world; The general prosecutor of the Netherlands invited me four times to read a lecture for the prosecutor’s office in the most just country in Europe; and the only country that recognizes the charges pressed against me besides these useless people is Russia. [Editorial note: prosecution again interrupts Saakashvili].
Of course, I am the personal prisoner of Putin and I would like to tell the Georgian people – do not put your hands down, do not pause, because we have our homeland to save. Everyone must mobilize, everyone must be peaceful and organized but also devoted selfless. Did I not sacrifice myself? Did Elene Khoshtaria not sacrifice herself? Did Nika Melia not sacrifice himself when he walked into the prison of his own will? Did Lekso Rapava not sacrifice himself? No retreating now! This regime must necessarily be rid of! Georgia must be freed!
Thank you, my Georgian people, for receiving me, for supporting me, and for fighting!
We will definitely, definitely, definitely defeat this horror and we will definitely [be] free, proud and very succesful. I am absolutely convinced of it.
May God and Saint George be our helpers. Gaumarjos to Georgia, freedom [Editorial note: the last word is inaudible].“