President Salome Zurabishvili issued a statement concerning the February 6 decision of the Tbilisi City Court that refused the motion of Mikheil Saakashvili’s lawyers for the deferral of his sentence or his release for treatment on health grounds. Zurabishvili said she “can’t and won’t” comment on the legal merits of that decision but feels compelled to issue a political comment since the decision “condemned the Georgian people to […] being a hostage of this situation.”
Zurabishvili said the decision discredits the country abroad, impedes cooperation with partners, undermines solidarity with Ukraine, and harms Georgia’s European perspective.
While the country remains “hostage to this one issue,” President said, all other decisive matters are not even being publicly discussed, be it growing emigration or “mass immigration” from Russia. In the meantime, the “doubts about Georgia returning to Russia’s orbit” surface continues the statement, which creates a potentially dangerous uncertainty in a “new geopolitical situation” since “Russia may believe that we have lost the clear support of our traditional partners.”
She apportioned blame for all of this on the “joint efforts” of the ruling party and opposition. President Zurabishvili condemned the ruling party’s rhetoric, its “stubborn decisions,” and “incomprehensible leniency towards Russia,” which goes alongside “strict and sometimes offensive criticism” of “Ukraine and our partners.” On the other hand, she stated, the positioning of “some members of Saakashvili’s family” harmed the country’s reputation through a “well-planned and implemented campaign,” which equals his treatment to that of Alexei Navalny, Russia’s imprisoned opposition figure.
President Zurabishvili then addressed the demands for her to exercise discretionary power and pardon Saakashvili. She said the pardon would not affect the problem of the country’s discredited image since “it is an expression of President’s personal will and not the testimony of the new approach by the regime or a sign of true depolarisation, which is what Europe demands from us.” Absent Saakashvili’s “recognition and repentance of his crimes,” he may become an active opponent not only of the government but also of Georgia’s reputation and European future, Zurabishvili argued.
The responsibility for this should be equally divided between those “who convinced the former president to return and those who let him through and is not letting him out now,” reads the statement.
She lambasted the government’s “criminal act” of dropping the substantive work on the EU’s 12 conditions for candidacy from the political agenda. Abandoned citizens are leaving the country, Zurabishvili claimed, and this is “a joint responsibility of the ruling party and opposition.”
President Zurabishvili argued that her pardoning Saakashvili on cases where he was already convicted by the court wouldn’t release him from prison (since there are three other charges pending). And moreover, her pardon won’t restore the country’s reputation and advancement on its European path.
To achieve that objective, Zurabishvili argued, the government should recognize the harm it is doing and “find a legal and humane solution.” In contrast, the opposition should achieve that “Saakashvili recognizes his crime once and for all, and gives promise of leaving politics,” thus “releasing the country and the opposition” from his shadow.
Everyone should “stop toying with this country’s future, take responsibility and stop harming the country’s image,” concluded the President, which would give a chance for Georgia to “breathe, live, develop and receive the well-deserved candidacy of the European Union,” which will be in accordance with the citizens’ will.