U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, said while commenting on recent developments in Georgia, involving sacking of Defense Minister after arrests of several officials from the Ministry of Defense and general staff of the armed forces, that there are “legitimate” concerns the judicial system is being used in “a politicized way.”
PM Irakli Garibashvili sacked on November 4 Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, who before being fired alleged that recent MoD-related arrests and criminal investigations was “an attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice”; firing of Alasania was followed by resignations of State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Alexi Petriashvili and Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze.
“This is obviously an important time in the life of Georgia’s democracy,” the U.S. Ambassador said on November 5. “I know all the diplomats in Tbilisi, the international community, Washington [are] following all of these closely. Obviously the composition of Georgia’s cabinet and government is a matter for Georgians to decide.”
“However, at a time of regional turmoil and domestic economic challenge what Georgia needs the most is stability, unity, demonstrated commitment to due process and the rule of law, and public confidence in democratic institutions,” Ambassador Norland said.
“We urge all parties to work towards these goals and focus on future for the country that is firmly anchored in Euro-Atlantic institutions. It would not be appropriate for the United States to take a position on specific ongoing investigations, but the number and scope of prosecutions of former and current officials raises legitimate concern that the judicial system is being used in a politicized way, or for political purposes. We urge the government to take steps to dispel these perceptions,” the U.S. diplomat said.
When scandal over arrest of MoD and general staff officials, which from the very beginning fueled speculation over Georgian Dream infighting, was still unfolding, the U.S. Ambassador said about then Defense Minister Alasania on October 30: “We have full confidence in Minister Alasania and the leadership team at the Ministry of Defense.”