The panel of judges allowed jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili to deliver a political address on November 29, during the Tbilisi City Court hearing in the criminal case on exceeding official authority in 2007. During his lengthy address, Saakashvili spoke about the reasons for his return to Georgia, as well as the alleged inhuman treatment against him in prison, the criminal cases brought against him, and a number of other issues.
The former President’s address has triggered mixed reactions from the ruling party and the opposition.
Below is a complication of these remarks:
Ruling party remarks:
MP Irakli Kobakhidze, Chair of the Georgian Dream: “Yesterday, we saw the former dictator who misses the excess power that he had in the past and that he abused for years. We all remember the crimes he committed and most importantly, besides having committed the crimes in the past, he still remains dangerous to the public… Torture, inhuman treatment, rape, racketeering, seizing media, monopolization, ceding the territories – this is a small list of those gravest crimes Mikheil Saakashvili, his regime and a political party named the United National Movement committed in the past. Our country and our people do not deserve the reoccurrence [of these crimes] and naturally, these crimes will never reoccur.”
MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, Chair of the GD parliamentary faction: “According to the narrative that has persisted for nine years, Russia is fighting against Mikheil Saakashvili… [Actually] This man did [President Vladimir] Putin and Russia many favors, but this is overshadowed by counterarguments… When the Georgian Dream gets called a Russian force, everyone should consider not who says what, but who did and does what, whose actions personally benefitted President Putin… Torture of people, representing a very important part of our country’s population, depriving them of dignity can never be called a mistake… Seizing businesses… These can never be called mistakes, these are great crimes.”
MP Khatia Dekanoidze, United National Movement: “It is a political trial, it has nothing to do with justice; we have witnessed it on multiple occasions. Mikheil Saakashvili is the third President of Georgia and practically the entire regime is confronting him. In fact, the state was involved in his inhuman treatment and torture. I cannot say that his rights are protected right now.”
Salome Samadashvili, opposition MP: “I think that yesterday was a very difficult day for any citizen of Georgia, because, for the first time in [our] modern history, we saw the former leader of the country talk to the people from beyond the bars in the courtroom. No matter who has what opinion of Saakashvili, we all understand that yesterday was the day of Russia’s victory, because Russia wants to see Georgia as we saw it yesterday. The President was in an unequal, severe confrontation with Russia to ensure our country’s European and Western future, is now jailed by his own [country’s] government. Neither do our international partners doubt that it is a political reprisal… We should change this reality, Mikheil Saakashvili should become the last politician who is forced to address the public from the courtroom, and political persecution should end in this country once and forever… Nobody is safe from making mistakes and I believe Saakashvili also admitted that he has made a number of mistakes.”
MP Iago Khvichia, New Political Center Girchi: “I do not think that [Saakashvili] has learned any lessons, because even what he apologized for, it came off as apologized because in the end it adversely affected him. I could not notice that he was apologizing for treating ordinary people badly…”
MP Aleko Elisashvili, Citizens party: “Saakashvili did not even express a slight regret in his speech. He said that the Girgvliani case did not exist at all and that there was no evidence in the Gelashvili case… Saakashvili did not even show any dignity. I am not surprised, I did not expect it from him.”
Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the Labor Party: “Yesterday’s statement by ex-President Saakashvili that the 2007 protests were plotted in Moscow convinced me that this politician has not changed… These protests were triggered by public anger about brutal repressions, violence, seizing businesses, calling 40-year-old people [civil servants] retirees and relics of the Soviet Union… I will not even say anything about the fact that at least half of the population had not agreed with the coup dubbed as Rose Revolution, and had then protested in the streets as well.”