Georgian president says she has “no power” to pardon imprisoned ex-pres. Saakashvili

  • Georgian president Salome Zourabaichvili has explained reasons why she would not have pardoned former president Mikheil Saakashvili. Photo: Salome Zourabaichvili’s Twitter page, 21 Nov 2022 - 21:21, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian president Salome Zourabaichvili told BBC HARDTalk on Monday she had “no power” to pardon the imprisoned former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who, along with his lawyers and some opposition figures, has claimed to be suffering from serious health issues in detention.

Zourabichvili told the interview with the British channel Saakashvili’s sentencing process was “not closed” with three more cases involving his time in office pending, and cited domestic legislation which allows pardoning only after all legal proceedings against an individual are completed. 

However, Zourabichvili also said she had no plans to pardon the former president, even once all mandatory procedures are finalised.

I have explained at length in Georgia why I would not do it, because it is a factor for major polarisation [in the domestic politics and wider public]. [...] [T]here is not practically one family in Georgia that has not experienced what it meant to have that type of autocratic regime [the former United National Movement government under Saakashvili]. So, I do not feel that I have to become an instrument for more polarisation [by pardoning the former president]”, she told the interview.

Arrested in Tbilisi on his clandestine return to the country ahead of October 2021 municipal elections, Saakashvili has claimed his former 49-day hunger strike and “improper treatment” while in custody have “seriously deteriorated” his health. Photo: Nino Alavidze/

Zourabichvili added she did not want Saakashvili to “die in prison” and supported allowing his transfer abroad for treatment, but noted such a decision could only be made by a court based on evidence. 

  • Saakashvili was arrested in Tbilisi in October 2021 after his clandestine return to Georgia. He is currently serving a six-year term for two separate abuse of power cases while in office, with three other cases involving his term pending. 
  • His lawyers and family members have claimed the former president is in “urgent need” of treatment abroad, adding local professionals had been “unable” to make “accurate diagnosis and ensure relevant treatment” for months.
  • Responding to the claims, the country’s justice ministry has said “all necessary services” have been ensured for the former president in detention since his arrest.