Country reacts to Saakashvili's charges

One of the criminal cases Saakashvili is charged for pertains violent dispersal of anti-governmental mass protests on 7 November 2007., 28 Jul 2014 - 20:46, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Georgian Government and the country’s ruling political party are at loggerheads over the charges imposed on former president Mikheil Saakashvili.

Saakashvili’s colleagues from United National Movement have criticized the Georgian Government for filing charges against the ex-president and said it was "political persecution”. However the Government and Parliamentary majority said the charges were valid and no one should be forgiven for violating basic human rights and causing infringements against their own people.

Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office filed criminal charges against Saakashvili today, July 28, in relation to an incident on November 7, 2007 where demonstrators were violently dispersed during an anti-Governmental mass protest, as well as an unlawful raid of Imedi TV company by riot police and illegal take-over of property owned by late tycoon Badri (Arkadi) Patarkatsishvili.

UNM member Giorgi Gabashvili said: "This step is not going to do anything good for Georgia. This will be perceived as a political persecution and [will] damage the international image of the country.”

One of UNM’s leaders, Davit Bakradze, said the Government was in a hurry "since it is afraid of UNM as of the major opposition powers”.

He said this fear had deepened after the local government elections where "practically every third voter supported UNM and in doing so expressed dissatisfaction towards the situation in the country.”

"The Government has decided to devastate the political opposition instead of diminishing existing problems,” Bakradze stated.

Zurab Japaridze, also of UNM, believed Saakashvili had already paid his political responsibility for the November 7 incident through his resignation and appointment of the early presidential elections, which he later won.

However Government representatives and members of the Parliamentary majority – Georgian Dream – believed otherwise. Tbilisi’s newly elected Mayor Davit Narmania said everybody should take responsibility for their actions, provided all procedures and rules were followed.

"It is important the investigative bodies’ questions are answered and a person, whoever he or she may be, are obliged to do so," Narmania said.

Authorities said the investigation into Saakashvili and his co-accused - ex-Prime Minister and former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, former Prosecutor General Zurab Adeishvili, former Minister of Defence Davit Kezerashvili and ex-Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava was ongoing under Article 333 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. If found guilty the men face a prison sentence from five to eight years.

The Chief Prosecutor's Office also revealed several cases to which the former president was somewhat connected to, including the invasion of Imedi TV building in February 2008 where riot police raided an independent Imedi TV building with high ranking officials inside. Subsequently the TV station was illegally acquired.

Georgia’s new Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia, Sozar Subari, held the post of Public Defender in 2007, and was beaten by riot police during the raid. He said the activities implemented by the-then government were an "organised crime”, which he indicated in his Ombusman report at the time.

"It is important that the Prosecutor’s Office has studied every fact in detail, questioned hundreds of witnesses, double-checked any information possible and only then decided to charge the former president,” Subari stated today.

"This charge is very justified. I am a person who knows well what was happening during those days, not only on November 7th. Preparation for the rally happened on November 2 by the opposition and the activists were persecuted,” he said.

"This and also the facts that beating people and destruction of their property was planned in the Interior Minister’s office were studied well by me. This is a systemic error which should be held accountable for all who participated in it.”

"As for the invasion of Imedi television, it was qualified by me as containing signs of degrading and inhuman treatment, I mean the treatment towards the journalists and members of Parliament who were there at that moment,” Subari explained.

He said he has been called as a witness and also indicated in his report that units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Corrections participated in the raid.

"The purpose of this was not to eradicate the protest rally but to intimidate and prosecute the opposition representatives,” Subari said.

"Saakashvili will arrive, no one can escape from this. The reports I prepared and presented to Parliament showed the history of the criminal regime of Saakashvili, while on the other hand they were prepared indictments which would be used one fine day against the founders of that criminal system and that day has come,” Subari said.

Meanwhile, one of the witness in the Imedi case, former head of the news department at the television and former leader of the Christian-Democrats Movement, Giorgi Targamade said he was questioned regarding the case three weeks ago.

He said he was happy steps had been taken to further the case from political dialogue to legal action.