(UPDATE: adds Swedish Foreign Minister’s response in fifth paragraph)
Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili said that concerns voiced by foreign ministers of Sweden and Lithuania, Carl Bildt and Linas Linkevičius, respectively, over prosecution of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili should not come as a surprise because they are from “a club of Saakashvili’s friends.”
“This is normal,” he said when responding to a journalist’s question on the Lithuanian foreign minister’s August 7 tweet in which Linkevičius said that possible application of selective justice is incompatible with European integration process and called on the Georgian government to avoid such practice.
“I will explain it very simply; I want to explain it to the public,” PM Garibashvili continued. “This is kind of a club of Saakashvili’s friends, who have certain obligations of friendship and they just express their sympathy.”
“Regrettably, they were not aware of those terrible things that had been happening in Georgia for years. Even the war, it was absolutely appalling to see footage which we saw during the 2008 war – the commander-in-chief, who was running away. Future generation will evaluate it better and very strictly,” said Garibashvili, who was speaking with journalists after a wreath laying ceremony at Mukhatgverdi military cemetery in Tbilisi outskirts to commemorate Georgian soldiers fallen in the August, 2008 war.
In response Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on his Twitter:
Reacting on Twitter to prosecution of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, Bildt said on August 6 that the Georgian authorities “deviate from European path in using justice system for revenge. Does damage to the country” and in a separate tweet on August 7 he said that “there is rising international concern over the policies of revenge in Georgia. Damages the country.”
PM Garibashvili also commented on a letter sent to him by four U.S. Senators. In the letter, which was first published by the Tbilisi-based Tabula media outlet, Senators John McCain, Jim Risch, Jeanne Shaheen and Marco Rubio say that Georgian government’s “efforts to prosecute members of the former government in a way that seems more connected to politics than independent judicial decision-making” has been “troubling.”
PM Garibashvili said that he sent a response letter to the U.S. Senators in which he pointed out that facts brought by them were “not true.”
“This [letter from the U.S. Senators] is an advice from our country’s senior friends. I explained to them that the information provided in the letter is not true. Those facts, which with high probability were provided [to the U.S. Senators] by Saakashvili and his lobbyists, were not true,” he said.
“We will do our best to let the entire world know the truth about what had been happening in Georgia during nine years [when Saakashvili and his UNM party were in power]. The truth will never be lost. Personally I will do utmost to let everyone – not only our people, but to the entire world as well – to know this truth,” Garibashvili said.
“We always appreciate and feel the U.S. support and we believe that this process is absolutely normal and healthy,” the PM added.