Saakashvili Case Discussed at the Event in EU Parliament Dedicated to Political Prisoners

On March 14, an event was held in Strasbourg, hosted by MEP Petras Auštrevičius and co-hosted by William Browder, lawyer and human rights activist behind the Magnitsky Act. The event was dedicated to three high-profile political prisoners, Vladimir Kara-Murza and Alexei Gorinov in Russia, and Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia.

The event was broadcast live and gave MEPs and a wider audience the opportunity to hear from family members and/or lawyers of Mr. Kara-Murza, Mr. Gorinov and Mr. Saakashvili, to reassess the actions taken so far in support of these political prisoners and to agree on further effective ways to campaign for their release.

The participants noted that all three are being held in cruel conditions and face imminent death in prison.

Saakashvili’s mother Giuli Alasania, son Edward Saakashvili and Saakashvili’s lawyer Giorgi Chaladze spoke about the background and current condition of the ex-president, mentioning that he has been given 47 different diagnoses. They appealed to the EU and the international community to help free Saakashvili.

The same appeal, as well as a call to the EU capitals’ respective executive branches to exert more pressure, was made by UNM Secretary General Petre Tsiskarishvili, who also attended the event.

A. Fotyga, R. Sikorski, S. Lagodinsky and other MEPs attended the event and spoke about the need to keep up the pressure on authoritarian regimes to release political prisoners. The discussion focused on the issue of sanctions. In particular, W. Browder, who was the initiator of the Magnitski legislation, spoke at length about the background of the three prisoners’ cases. He also spoke extensively about the failure of the EU to use the Magnitsky Act since it was passed. He lamented that the EU is by far “the least robust in using this law”, whereas it is supposed to be the most active human rights protector. His message to the audience was that the EU must sanction the human rights abusers responsible for the detention of Magnitsky, Kara-Murza, Gorinov and Saakashvili.

He said that each of the prisoners’ stories were highly compelling in their own right. He emphasized: “People who commit these human rights abuses laugh at the statements of outrage of governments, because they mean nothing, water under the bridge… But when you create real personal consequences for people who do these things, then they start paying attention…” “I know for sure Magnitsky act would have influence in Georgia”, -he added.

Fotyga, when asked about last week’s events and whether they meant that the Georgian government had decided not to integrate into the EU and that the EU therefore did not have as much leverage as it had a week ago, replied that “there is a momentum now to exert pressure on the Georgian government”, as Georgians “made the Georgian Dream withdraw the draft law on foreign agents as a result of mass protests. “We know the will of Georgian society and therefore we keep exerting pressure” – she said. S. Lagodinski supported his colleague’s assessment and added : “We should formulate our preconditions and they should be freedom, at least the health of Saakashvili, for further progress.”

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


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