Shalva Papuashvili, the Georgian Parliament Speaker, on Monday alleged a group of members of the European Parliament was taking “deliberate actions to harm Georgia’s image” in a bid to facilitate an “illegal release” of the imprisoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili from detention.
Papuashvili made the claim in his interview for Kviris Palitra newspaper, which was published on Monday, with the comment also coming following a European Parliament resolution last week that expressed a “grave concern over deteriorating health” of Saakashvili and called for his release on health grounds.
Responding to the document, Papuashvili claimed EP resolutions had become a “source of misinformation and attack on Georgia”, a development he called “very much regrettable”, and noted the MEPs who stood behind it were “friends of Saakashvili, not Georgia”.
Pointing to a “number of inaccuracies” in the resolution text, the official reminded the European lawmakers that Saakashvili had fled the country in 2013 to “escape justice” and had “never been a refugee”, in contrast to their claims.
He added the former official had been convicted in the 2006 murder case of Sandro Girgvliani - a banker who was tortured and killed on the instructions of former officials under Saakashvili’s United National Movement Government - with the European Court of Human Rights confirming their guilt in its 2011 ruling.
Papuashvili also highlighted last week’s ruling of the ECHR in the case of a former Georgian inmate that said torture and inhuman treatment in Georgian prisons under UNM authorities had been “systematic and widespread”.
Challenging the views by several MEPs who described Saakashvili as the “founder of the democratic state” or a “democratic ruler”, the Parliament Speaker said “evidence” showed Saakashvili ruled “like a Soviet punitive machine” during his time in office.
The official also criticised the domestic rehabilitation centre Empathy, which commissioned a report on Saakashvili that last year pointed to more than 20 health issues and recommended his “urgent transfer abroad” on medical grounds. Papuashvili claimed it had been “not the first time” the centre had produced “fake reports”.
The EP resolution - which received votes from 577 MEPs, with 33 voting against - also called the ongoing circumstances around Saakashvili a “litmus test of the Georgian Government’s commitment to European values and its declared European aspirations, including European Union candidate status”.