Ex-president Saakashvili sentenced to pre-trial detention

The defense side of Saakashvili will appeal the court's decision.
Agenda.ge, 02 Aug 2014 - 01:40, Tbilisi,Georgia

Former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and two other ex-government officials have been sentenced to pre-trial detention after a five hour hearing at Tbilisi City Court.

The decision was made by judicial authorities after the prosecution filed a motion to impose preventative measures on the former President, who is currently abroad and refuses to return to Georgia to face his charges.

Earlier the lawyers representing Saakashvili and the other ex-officials said they would demand their clients not to be held in pre-trial detention.

"Our position is simple. All the well-wisher international organisations have been concerned about the political persecution in Georgia since the end of 2012. We have all those statements which were released by our partners regarding this political persecution and we also have statements from Bidzina Ivanisvhili who spoke about the destruction of [United] National Movement (UNM) and its disappearance from the radar which we are going to present to the court," Kakhidze said before the court hearing started.

Saakashvili and members of his UNM-led government - ex-Defence Minister Davit Kezerashvili and ex-Chief Prosecutor Zurab Adeishvili face charges relating to the unlawful seizure of Imedi TV and other assets owned at the time by tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who died in February 2008, as well as exceeding official authorities that stemmed from the breakup of November 7, 2007 anti-government protests.

An investigation into the crimes is ongoing under Part Three of Article 333 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which related to exceeding official powers and carries a prison sentence from five to eight years.

At the Court hearing, other former government officials also involved in the case were not sentenced to pre-trial detention. Vano Merabishvili, who was the Interior Minister in 2007 and Gigi Ugulava,who at the time was Tbilisi Mayor, were charged alongside Saakashvili, Kezerashvili and Adeishvili for their role in the same case however the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia did not ask for preventative measures to be imposed on them as they were earlier detained for other criminal matters.

Shortly after the court hearing started but before the verdict was announced, Saakashvili went on air with Rustavi-2 television from New York City and repeated he would not return to Georgia and appear for his summons to be questioned by the Prosecutor’s Office.

"I want a group of lawyers to be created which will archive not only the facts of issuing orders but also actions of the prosecutors and judges. We would not have to use these documents for revenge but they are going to be useful for Georgia in the future," Saakashvili said.

He added that ordering his arrest would mean "a shameful page added to Georgia's history".

Once the verdict was announced, the lawyer representing Saakashvili and others on trial said he would appeal the pre-trial detention against his clients. Lawyer Otar Kakhidze told journalists the Court’s decision was "unreasonable” as the prosecution did not present evident against the ex-president today.

"They have Nino Burjanadze's and one other witness’ - Chkhartishvili's testimonials. Obviously this case was created after the charge was imposed. The prosecution is implementing a political persecution,” Kakhidze said.

On the other side, the prosecution were pleased with the Court outcome and said the decision was "justified” and had derived from evidences already presented in the case.

The Court hearing began at 8pm this evening and lasted for about five hours.

Before the hearing began, prosecutor Irakli Nadareishvili told journalists according to law, when a person purposely avoided an investigation, like Saakashvili had, the prosecution was forced to demand his imprisonment.

Nadareishvili said it was important and significant Saakashvili respond to the questions put to him however he had "repeatedly avoided appearing in front of the investigative authority”.

"He also refused to be questioned remotely what forced the prosecution to demand his arrest," Nadareishvili explained.

Saakashvili’s lawyer did not file a motion to set bail at today's hearing, which contrasted his earlier comments to journalists.

Saakashvili, who is currently based in the United States but often travelled to different countries, left Georgia in November 2013 when his second and final presidential term ended. Speaking from Budapest earlier this week, Saakashvili dismissed the charges against him and said his case was a political witch-hunt.

The next pre-trial hearing on the case against Saakashvili and other former government officials is scheduled for September 22 at 12pm.