TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia’s former President Mikheil Saakashvili will be declared a wanted person if he doesn’t come and answer questions in a long list of criminal cases.
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said this today.
“If he does not come, he will be declared wanted according to the law, [because] he now is an ordinary citizen. The prosecutors have questions to him about very grave [criminal] cases, so he must come here [to Georgia] and answer those questions,” Gharibashvili told Kviris Palitra, a weekly newspaper.
“[Saakashvili] must answer fully all questions. He must dispel all suspicions, to help investigation steer towards right direction. If he still retains a trace of common sense, he must come here.”
Georgia’s top prosecutor has summoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili to come to Georgia for questioning, with status as witness.
At a press conference Saturday, a spokesperson presented a long list of criminal cases prosecutors want to question the former president about, including the suspicious death of a prime minister in 2005.
Saakashvili is currently not in the country, and the document summoning him to come to the Prosecutor’s Office on March 27 at 13:00 was therefore given to his mother, Giuli Alania.
The announcement was not entirely unexpected, as dozens of his associates in the government have been put on trial after his National Movement party lost power in an election in October, 2012. Saakashvili himself has said repeatedly that he was expecting to be imprisoned and claimed that the cases against his associates were politically motivated.
One of the cases prosecutors want to question him about is the death of Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania in 2005.
A few days ago, new photos were published on the Internet showing the dead bodies of Zhvania and another man, who officially died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
But the photos showed that they had other injuries, which experts say only could have been inflicted before the time of death.
Most Georgians think Zhvania’s death did not happen the way they were immediately told by Saakashvili’s interior minister before the autopsy had been conducted. Some even believe the government was involved in Zhvania’s death.
The other cases Saakashvili will be questioned about are, first, the pardoning of four policemen convicted of killing bank employee Sandro Girgvliani in 2006 after a dispute at a restaurant involving wife of the then interior minister Vano Merabishvili.
Georgia was strongly criticized by the European Court of Human Rights for its handling of this case.
Saakashvili will also be asked about the takeover of the television station Imedi, once hailed as an example of outstanding independent journalism, but taken over by investors close to Saakashvili in 2008, after which its programming changed into pro-government propaganda, culminating in a hoax news broadcast ahead of the local election in 2010 in which the president’s opponents were branded as traitors.
He will also be questioned about a case of embezzlement in the SSPS, a public guard service, sale of shares in two other TV stations, Rustavi 2 and Mze, a police operation in 2009 which led to one death, the privatization of the Agricultural University, and the attempt to bankrupt opposition-affiliated Cartu Bank through an advanced scheme.
It is unclear whether Saakashvili will come to Georgia for the questioning. Koka Katsitadze from the Prosecutor’s Office said at the briefing that the former president doesn’t have immunity. He is summoned as a witness and nothing else is planned in relation to him than questioning.
“We must hear the reason why he is not coming, if he decides not to come to the investigative body,” he said, “but we expect that Saakashvili will come and answer the questions of the investigation.”
Supporters in the National Movement Party say the prosecutors can go and visit Saakashvili where he lives if they wants to question him.
After the change of government in 2012, Saakashvili has said repeatedly that Bidzina Ivanishvili wants to arrest him; but representatives of the government said they weren’t planning to detain him.
A few days ago, Ivanishvili, the former prime minister who after leaving office went to work in the non-governmental sector, said that it is possible Mikheil Saakashvili will be questioned about the death of former PM Zurab Zhvania.
Soon after this statement, a video was posted on the Internet showing photos of the dead bodies of Zhvania with injuries, while official version of the investigation conducted by the previous government claimed that Zhvania didn’t have any injuries and died from a gas leak.
The government says these photos are part of the material in the case of Zhvania’s death, but they argue with the opposition over why these photos were secretly kept while they were in government.
It is still not known who posted the material on the Internet. Police detained two persons regarding this case in last few days – head of the shift of Zhvania’s personal guard and one of the experts who participated in the autopsy carried out on Zhvania’s body in 2005.
Giorgi Vashadze from the UNM thinks summoning Saakashvili for questioning is related to his activities recently in Ukraine and the international community.
The ex-president visited Kiev after the February coup and he was described as an advisor to the interim government.
Vashadze told journalists on Saturday that Mikheil Saakashvili is an important figure in the current geopolitical situation who has direct contact with world leaders and ‘his opinion is shared by the world leaders.’
“Unfortunately this is unacceptable for the current government, just like it is for Putin,” Vashadze said.
He thinks the government wants to restrict Saakashvili’s free movement.
“Time will show us the rest, like what will be Saakashvili’s decision,” he added.
In more detail, the Prosecutor’s Office’s list of cases about which it is necessary to question Mikheil Saakashvili as a witness is as follows:
The first case is related to the fact of releasing the convicted Alania, Ghachava, Bibiluridze and Aptsiauri through pardoning by the decree of the President of Georgia issued on 24 November 2008. The above-mentioned persons have been convicted of the crime committed on 28 January 2006 against Sandro Girgvliani and Levan Bukhaidze.
The Girgvliani case is one of the most controversial ones during the Saakashvili regime, because it involves the wife of former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and several Interior Ministry officials, who abused their powers for personal interests and caused the death of one person.
The next case is the raid on TV “Imedi” in February 2008, and subsequent break-in by high rank officials and taking it into illegal possession as well as regarding the other illegal acts committed against the family of the Badri Patarkatsishvili, the deceased businessman who wanted to run in president election.
The Imedi case ended with a memorandum concluded on 6 July, 2011, between the Government of Georgia and the family of Patarkatsishvili;
Next case is the embezzling of 8 837 461 lari belonging to the Special State Protection Service in the period 2009-2012;
Also, Saakashvili will be questioned in the criminal case being conducted with the aim of ascertaining the circumstances related to the death of the Prime Minister of Zurab Zhvania;
About the conceding of shares under coercion by the legitimate owners of TV “Rustavi 2” and TV “MZE” in June 2004;
Also a special operation conducted for the purpose of detaining Koba Otanadze, Levan Amiridze and Gia Krialashvili, leading to the death of Krialashvili as well as the wounding of Amiridze and Otanadze, who were wanted for the so-called “Mukhrovani Mutiny” on 20 May, 2009.
About the embezzling of the property of “Agromet” Ltd., (Agricultural University of Georgia) being under the state ownership on 24 February 2014;
The illegal privatization of the state property to “BZKZ” Ltd., and the presidential decree of 31 October 2012 which gave advantages to Saakashvili’s uncle Temur Alasania;
About the giving of state property worth USD 3 million to the founders of the TV Company “TV-25”, broadcasting in the Adjara region, by a symbolic price of 1 lari in February 2012, with the aim of controlling the TV company during the election campaign;
And lastly, about the concealing of property put under mortgage in Cartu Bank by means of selling it falsely aimed at artificial bankruptcy of the bank, by the participation of high ranking officials and under their arrangement in the period 2011-2012.