Four US Senators concerned by Saakashvili charges

The US Capitol building in Washington. Photo by EPA, 29 Jul 2014 - 18:17, Tbilisi,Georgia

Criminal charges filed against Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office has gained the attention of a handful of top United States (US) officials.

Four US Senators believed the charges against Saakashvili imposed "unnecessary challenges” on Georgia’s relationship with the US and advised the Government to think carefully whether this was the right action to take.

Republican Senators John McCain and Jim Risch and Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Ben Cardin expressed disappointment regarding the charges against Saakashvili’s and issued a statement on Monday that voiced their concerns.

"[We] are extremely disappointed and concerned that the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia has filed criminal charges against former President Mikheil Saakashvili and numerous senior leaders of the previous government,” the statement read.

The Senators said "president Saakasahvili and his government were not faultless”, and it was important for any democracy to uphold its laws, "but the pursuit of justice should not become a tool of political retribution and a source of national division, especially when Georgia has so many pressing challenges at present.”

"We and others have urged Prime Minister [Irakli] Garibashvili and other Georgian leaders to focus on the future, not the past, and to help move their country forward, not take it backward,” the statement read.

"It is nearly impossible to see how the decision to put most of the previous government on trial is consistent with this purpose.”

The US Senators offered advice to the current Government to "think long and hard about the direction they are taking their country”.

"Today’s action, and others like it, imposes unnecessary challenges in moving our relationship forward,” the statement read.

Opposition and government react on US Senators statement

Meanwhile, the political counterparts of the ex-president and members of Saakashvili-led United Nationals Movement (UNM) political party expressed concern that the new Government had used selective justice and political persecution against their opponents in Georgia.

"The charge brought against the former president goes towards destroying the main opposition party in the country and Saakashvili himself,” Mikheil Machavariani, an opposition lawmaker and UNM member said.

Machavariani believed Saakashvili, who was the main person in the current political processes in Ukraine, "caused the severe reaction from US senators”.

However leaders of ruling Georgian Dream coalition denied the prosecution of Saakashvili was politically motivated and promised a fair trial.

Defence Minister Irakli Alasania believed the rights of any suspicious person must be guaranteed and noone, including Georgia’s partners, must not have the feeling of a political witch-hunt.

"I highly respect [the US] Senators. I believe they are concerned but we have to wait for the investigation and to respect the Georgian laws,” Alasaina said.

Meanwhile, State Minister on European and Euro Atlantic Integration Alex Petriashvili said all were equal before the law.

"[We] consider the advice of the US Senators, friends and partners and the Government will spare no efforts to secure justice in the country,” Petriashvili said.

The Minister of Refugees and Accommodation Sozar Subari believed the statement of several US Senators or Congressmen was not the official position on the US government.

"The position of the free world is following - when there is the sign of crime we have to conduct the investigation and the free court has to issue the verdict, otherwise there will not be the free world and Georgia will not become the part of this free world,” Subari said.

Georgia’s Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani wrote on her blog that "high governmental position did not mean the immunity (or resistance)”.

"No one in the current Government, except the Prosecutor’s Office has the time to spend on [Saakashvili.] The prosecutor has an obligation to request everyone to be equal before the law. We have an obligation to give the prosecutor the opportunity to conduct an investigation in calm conditions,” Tsulukiani’s blog read.

"Finally, the court will decide whose argument is more substantial. The court is independent under the present Government [and] the executive body does not influence it.”