Two more U.S. Senators have released a joint statement saying that they are “deeply disappointed” by decision of the Georgian prosecutor’s office to press criminal charges against ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and Republican Senator Ron Johnson said: “While we appreciate the goal of preventing a culture of impunity for government officials, the prosecution of Georgia’s former President – in addition to the former Prime Minister, Interior Minister, Defense Minister, and Chief Prosecutor – contributes to the perception that the ruling [Georgian Dream] coalition is systematically pursuing charges against their political opponents.”
“As advocates for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration, we urge Georgia’s leaders to spend their finite time and resources on the important work of strengthening institutions, growing the economy, and reforming the justice sector. At a time when Georgia has important challenges ahead, the country should be united in focusing on the future instead of litigating the past,” the two Senators said in their joint statement on July 29.
Republican Senators John McCain and Jim Risch, as well as Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Ben Cardin said in their joint statement on July 28 that they are “extremely disappointed and concerned” with brining criminal charges against Saakashvili. They said that the move “imposes unnecessary challenges in moving our relationship forward.”
Charges against Saakashvili have been filed under part three of article 333 of the criminal code, involving exceeding official powers, committed with use of violence and insult of victim’s dignity, which carries imprisonment from 5 to 8 years as punishment.
Charges are stemming from break up of the November 7, 2007 anti-government protests, as well as raid on and “seizure” of Imedi TV station and other assets owned at the time by tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who died in February, 2008.
Several other former high-ranking officials have also been charged in the same case, including Vano Merabishvili, who was interior minister in 2007; then chief prosecutor Zurab Adeishvili; then defense minister Davit Kezerashvili and Gigi Ugulava, who at the time was Tbilisi mayor
Although charges have been filed against Saakashvili, no arrest warrant has yet been issued. Prosecution can file a motion in court asking for pre-trial detention for Saakashvili in absentia. It is not yet clear when, if at all, prosecutor’s office plans to file such motion in court.