TBILISI, DFWatch–Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday responded to the criminal charges brought against him by writing that he has never committed a crime.
“They have never proved that I’ve been guilty in any crime as I’ve never committed one, on the contrary we reduced the crime level and brought it almost to zero,” he wrote in a Facebook post Monday evening.
Earlier in the day, the Prosecutor’s Office announced formal criminal charges against Saakashvili and four of his top officials. The charges deal with a violent crackdown on an anti-government rally in Tbilisi on November 7, 2007, as well as the police storming of, and eventual takeover of a private television station, Imedi.
Saakashvili hit back by repeating the claim that the crackdown was necessary because a coup d’etat was imminent and the main factor was Imedi and its owner, the businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili, whom he considers an oligarch.
‘One Russian oligarch charges him for dispersing coup attempt organized by another Russian oligarch,’ Saakashvili writes, referring to former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and Patarkatsishvili, respectively.
The former leader, who has never set foot in his own country after leaving office a year and a half ago, points out that he is being charged right before the anniversary of the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 after the government was unable to find ‘millions appropriated by him.’
“Even though Russia used to organize disorders for us very often through politicians, we never jailed any politician because national agreement was the supreme value for us and I resigned in 2007 to retain this value,” he writes, adding that in 2012 his government ensured a peaceful transition of power to people who ‘didn’t respond the same way.’
The former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, who is charged in the same case, responded during a hearing in the Appeals Court on Tuesday by saying that the charges are ‘ridiculous’, but he is proud of standing by his friends.
“Even if the government takes legal actions against anyone, each of their actions have lost legal and moral power,” he said, adding that he feels sorry for the judges and prosecutors who have to carry out ‘comical and ridiculous orders’.
“We aren’t running away from our responsibilities. We are setting an example of how to live and how to be jailed.”
During the hearing he said that former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, another one who is charged in the same case and is in detention in the same prison with him for other charges, doesn’t have a TV in his solitary cell and as a sign of solidarity he also turned down a TV set.
The four US senators John McCain, Ben Cardin, Jeanne Shaheen and Jim Risch on Monday issued a statement expressing disappointment about the charges against Saakashvili.
“President Saakashvili and his government were not faultless, and it is important for any democracy to uphold its laws,” statement reads, “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.”
They called on the prime minister and the government to focus on the future instead of the past and move the country forward.
Prime Minister Gharibashvili Tuesday said in a statement that the government welcomes an objective investigation. He writes that the process is open and people both in Georgia and in partner countries will be able to analyze all the evidence in the case.
“The Georgian people wants to end impunity, which has been prevailing in our country for years,” he writes, adding that the government managed to improve the justice system in Georgia, where the courts are no longer influenced by the government and the Prosecutor’s Office is independent, while law enforcement bodies and the army are depoliticized.
He says the Prosecutor’s Office took an important step and charged those who ‘possibly violated the law.’