Several civil society groups said on March 26, that number of aspects surrounding summoning of former president Mikheil Saakashvili for questioning “may cast a shadow over objective investigation” and called on the authorities not to give rise to the suspicion that the process is politically motivated.
“It is obvious that any citizen of Georgia, including former president, is equal before the law and, if needed, is obliged to cooperate with investigation. But because of especially high public interest, this process should proceed maximally transparently and openly. It is of utmost importance to rule out any suspicion about politically motivated prosecution, which can significantly damage country’s image,” reads a joint statement by International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED); Transparency International Georgia; Georgian Democracy Initiative and Civil Development Agency (CiDA).
“At this stage there are number of circumstances, which may seriously cast a shadow over objective investigation. We think that prosecutor’s office should provide more information to the public about why it became necessary to question Mikheil Saakashvili particularly now and how it happened that his questioning became needed simultaneously on multiple cases,” reads the statement.
“We think that both domestic and external context should be taken into account. Georgia, like the entire region, faces external threats. Against of backdrop of announcements by the EU leaders about speeding up of signing of the Association Agreement with Georgia on the one hand, and statements on new approaches towards NATO enlargement on the other hand, it is important that summoning of the former president not to be perceived by Georgia’s strategic partners as politically motivated action and this case not to have negative effect on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration process,” it says.
“Summoning of the former president for question can also be considered in the pre-election context. Prosecutor’s office should explain why it became necessary to summon the former president few months before the local elections [scheduled for June 15]. We think that carrying out legal proceedings against opposition representatives and former officials will effect negatively on free and fair electoral process. We think that investigative agencies, like last year’s [presidential] election, should maximally refrain from this kind of actions against leaders and activists of opposition parties. It will definitely have a positive effect on the pre-election environment,” reads the statement.
In an interview with the Rustavi 2 TV, recorded in Kiev and broadcast on March 25, Saakashvili reiterated that he would not arrive in Tbilisi to appear before prosecutors for questioning, citing that the process is politically motivated.
Saakashvili said that after the 2012 parliamentary elections former PM Ivanishvili threatened him with criminal charges if he refused to “shut up.” He also claimed that Ivanishvili acts in concert with Russian President Vladimir Putin; Saakashvili repeated his earlier remarks that he would not “make Putin’s dreams come true” by arriving in Tbilisi for questioning.
He said that Russia wanted to “bring” Ivanishvili into power in Georgia in order to on the one hand “neutralize me as a symbol of freedom-loving nations in the face of challenges from Russia” and to undermine the Georgian statehood internally on the other hand.
Saakashvili also said that in November, 2013 when he visited Brussels, European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, advised him to leave Georgia.
“José Manuel Barroso told me the following: ‘as soon as your government arrests you, no one will convince me that it is not the government controlled by Putin and I will be the first one who will raise the issue of halting Georgia’s further progress [in respect of EU integration] so you should understand what is your role – if you think that you are ready to stop Georgia’s course towards Europe, you can stay in Georgia and you will find yourself in jail and we will wash our hands and actually hand over Georgia’ – that’s what he meant, although he did not use exactly these words – ‘to Putin, otherwise you should temporarily sideline yourself in order not to allow them to execute this plan’,” Saakashvili said and added that “several senior officials” from the State Department, among them John Kerry too, also conveyed similar messages to him and his allies.