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Media Battle for Saakashvili Release Continues, as Lobbying Contract Comes to Light

On February 10 CNN showed surveillance camera’s new footage of Saakashvili, depicting the failing health of Georgia’s third president. The disturbing video shows two episodes of him stumbling and allegedly having a seizure, as well as falling out of his bed. The footage also shows his recent virtual appearance in court, with anchor commenting about his failing health and his alleged poisoning in the prison with mercury and arsenic, “which is verified by tests done by doctors in the United States”–she comments.

The anchor recalls Ukraine’s President Zelensky’s televised address last week where he says that “Saakashvili is being slowly killed” and calling on international community to secure his release.

Massimo D’Angelo one of Saakashvili’s attorneys in conversation with the CNN anchor said that the former President of Georgia “is radically and rapidly declining in health”, He also added that Saakashvili has brain damage and change in its white matter, and some of it may not be reversible. D’Angelo confirmed that poisoning was established through the testing of hair, nail samples and body tissue. He said that detailed medical analysis showed the presence of heavy metals throughout his system, including mercury and arsenic. Saakashvili’s attorney said that several countries, including Poland, France, US, and Ukraine are willing to take him, as he needs to be moved immediately for detoxification process.

The anchor noted that Christo Grozev of Bellingcat, the lead investigator of Navalny poisoning “is now investigating Saakashvili poisoning as well, at Saakashvili’s request.”  Answering to the anchor’s question on whether this investigation will lead to Moscow and Putin, just like in the case of Alexei Navalny’s poisoning D’Angelo said that he has no doubt about that, calling Bidzina Ivanishvili “an oligarch” and “a Putin’s proxy” and adding that there “clearly a backsliding of democracy” in Georgia.

The anchor cited the US Ambassador’s statement saying that US will “continue to implore the government of Georgia to take necessary steps to prevent the situation from escalating further… and to provide Saakashvili with the type of treatment he needs.”  She inquired whether this was enough.” I don’t think it‘s enough.”- Stated D’Angelo.- “Clearly the US and Ambassador are closely looking at the situation but, we need a real effort- the suspension of aid, the imposition of sanctions, visa restrictions. These are the avenues we need to use in order to expedite his release.”

Meanwhile UNM Protest Rallies Continue

Meanwhile UNM held several protest rallies, including near Bidzina Ivanishvili house in Shekvetili, Western Georgia, in support of Saakashvili on February 10. “If Saakashvili is killed no one will accept us in the European Union”- announced Levan Khabeishvili, the new UNM chair, at the rally. He drew parallel between the well-being and social and economic situation of Georgians, on the one hand and the destiny of Saakashvili and Georgia’s European future, on the other.  He also said that the protest is “related to the fact that our country is led towards Russia and two days ago we were informed that Russia is winning the war. Ukraine is winning the war and will do so together with whole civilized war and together with our Georgian fighters!”

Georgian PM Garibasvhili today reacted to the rallies saying: “All their attempts indicate that this is an absolutely bankrupt, discredited and marginalized radical force. Of course, I am not interested in their rallies, or their senseless statements.”

Contract with Akerman LLC

In the meantime, according to the information leaked in government-sponsored channels the ex-president’s mother Giuli Alasania engaged, on his behalf, a legal firm Akerman LLP, to represent his interests. The sum of the contract, signed on February 3, and registered with U.S. DoJ amounts to slightly over USD 917 thousand. Even though initially, Akerman LLC was engaged to perform legal services related to immediate release of Saakashvili, the contract also foresaw expansion of services to include lobbying with the government, NGOs and other actors, as well as PR efforts to secure such outcome.

According to the contract the signed by the sides on February 3 this year, Akerman LLP will perform various duties, such as provide legal services related to application to Georgian court for Mr. Saakashvili’s immediate release from prison; plan, coordinate and execute legal strategy in Georgia and advocate on behalf of client internationally by, inter alia, coordinating retention of medical experts, working with public relations firm to raise awareness of client’s plight and deteriorating health; outreach to foreign dignitaries, thought leaders, NGOs and US government officials to secure his release on humanitarian grounds; etc.

As the news of the contract got leaked to the press, Ms. Alasania commented on the matter saying that selling the large land plots inherited from her father and financial help of her son’s friends allowed her to secure the funds to engage with Akerman LLP.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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