Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Caucasus Report

Prosecutor Summons Former Georgian President For Questioning

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili
On March 22, the Georgian Prosecutor General 's office summoned former Presdent Mikheil Saakashvili for questioning on March 27 in connection with 10 ongoing criminal investigations, including the pardoning of Interior Ministry officials jailed for the 2005 murder of banker Sandro Girgvliani; the suppression of a purported mutiny at a military base in May 2009; and the circumstances of the death in February 2005 of then Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania. On March 20, photos of Zhvania's body were posted on the Internet that reportedly show head injuries that call into question the coroner's verdict that Zhvania and his companion Raul Yusupov died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a defective gas heater.

Saakashvili, who left Georgia late last year after his second term expired, swiftly rejected the summons point-blank, attributing it to a clandestine deal between Georgian businessman and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose Georgian Dream coalition defeated Saakashvili's United National Movement (ENM) in the October 2012 parliamentary election, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Saakashvili said pressure on him has intensified in recent weeks as a result of his unequivocal public support for the new Ukrainian leadership in its efforts to withstand Moscow. Saakashvili opined that because of those efforts, he has become "a bone lodged in Putin's throat."

Other prominent members of Saakashvili's ENM have advanced similar arguments. Former Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava, who has been charged with money-laundering and abuse of his official position, said the prosecutor's office has become "a blind political weapon" in the hands of Ivanishvili and his successor and political protege Irakli Gharibashvili. Ugulava said that if Saakashvili were to accede to the prosecutor's demand, his return to Tbilisi could trigger "civil confrontation."

Former National Security Council head Giga Bokeria, for his part, said that all the criminal cases in which Saakashvili has been summoned for questioning were "fabricated" with the explicit intention of undermining the former president.

ENM parliamentarians Giorgi Vashadze and Giorgi Kandelaki drew parallels with developments in Ukraine. Bokeria  described the prosecutor's summons as "a direct attempt to make Europe say no to our EU and NATO integration," while Kandelaki characterized it as a bid to "sabotage" Georgia's aspirations to European integration.

Those arguments could be deemed spurious for at least three reasons. First, Georgian Dream unequivocally supports and has pledged to continue the drive for NATO and European Union membership that constituted the primary tenet of the ENM's foreign policy since its advent to power in November 2003. (Georgian Dream's parallel efforts to establish a basis for dialogue with Russia reflect the new leadership's pragmatism and realism rather than any overt geo-political preference.)

As recently as March 21, Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze hailed the EU's stated intention of strengthening its political association and economic integration with Georgia.

Second, Georgian Dream is on the same side of the barricades as the ENM with regard to Russia's encroachment in Ukraine. Giorgi Margvelashvili, Saakashvili's successor as president, has rejected as illegal the March 17 referendum in which the population of Crimea voted for the region's unification with the Russian Federation.  Like Saakashvili, Margvelashvili has publicly argued that it was the international community's failure to "stand up to" Russia's intervention in South Ossetia August 2008 that convinced the Russian leadership it could annex Crimea with impunity.

And third, the likelihood of a civil confrontation in Georgia between supporters of Georgian Dream and the ENM seems to be remote, if not non-existent, in light of the most recent opinion poll conducted on behalf of the National Democratic Institute, according to which just 9 percent of respondents characterized the ENM as the political party with which they felt the closest affinity, compared with 61 percent for Georgian Dream.

Possible Explanations

If one discounts ENM members' less than convincing attempts to write off the prosecutor's office summons as dictated by the Kremlin, then it appears that three possible explanations remain. First, Prosecutor General Giorgi Badashvili has bowed to pressure from a faction within the Georgian leadership that still considers Saakashvili and the ENM a threat and wants them discredited and neutralized at all cost, despite the probable backlash.

Second, due to lack of experience, Badashvili, 33, has misconstrued whatever circumstantial evidence may be available linking Saakashvili with the investigations in question. Badashvili has held that office for just two months. He replaced Otar Partskhaladze, who was constrained to step down in December 2013 after it became known that he had a criminal conviction in Germany.

Or third, the prosecutor general's office does in fact have sufficient evidence against Saakashvili to forestall the international outcry that the summons is likely to provoke. As analyst Zaal Anajaparidze told the website, the crimes in which the prosecutor's office suspects Saakashvili's involvement are such that in any democratic law-based state a current or former leader would be required to answer for them before the law. But for that reason, the prosecutor's evidence must be absolutely watertight and "leave no question marks either at home or abroad."

That need is all the more imperative insofar as, ever since the ENM's election defeat, its members have systematically branded successive arrests of former high-ranking government officials politically motivated persecution. Those allegations impelled some representatives of the international community to warn Ivanishvili against "selective justice," 

Ivanishvili for his part said in late 2012 that he was against any attempt to impeach Saakashvili, as doing so "would look like political revenge." More recently, Georgian Dream parliamentarian Levan Berdzenishvili was quoted as opposing Saakashvili's arrest on the grounds that "the West's reaction would be extremely negative" and "it would hinder our European integration."

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, however, has affirmed that, if Saakashvili (who does not enjoy immunity from prosecution) fails to present himself for questioning, the prosecutor's office will launch a search for him "in accordance with the law."

Gharibashvili was quoted as telling the newspaper "Kviris palitra" that "no one is above the law" and that his team "is not out to build a state in which some people are privileged and unassailable."

-- Liz Fuller
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Comment Sorting
by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 23, 2014 18:50
Zhvania's and Usupov's bodies shown on Georgian Forums
Marks on lips and nearby consistent with being poisoned and in pain.
Bump on the head consistent with falling on floor, wall or furniture, but if it was inflicted
by an attacker, the object that was used must be rapped into something soft.
Mark on the chest is consistent with ruptured blood vessels around on a poisoned man,
but it could be inflicted by an attacker, if expertize would find result of grabbing or punching.
Marks on the chest of Usupov consistent with poisoning and ruptured vessels, less for a younger man than that of Zhvania, it could be inflictid by punching or pushing (not grabbing), even less likely than in case of Zhvania.
Most likely assassination by GRU-Spethnaz-KGB of Russia - to create fear of treachery and murder in Georgia, before invade with Russian army and "Third Force" assassins.
FBI said at the time that it is consistent with GRU-Spetcnaz "iron-carbon" poisoning.
Saakashvili probably was confused by surprise and tried vin the time needed for advisory, unless he was also always Russian officer of the services of Russian occupiers in
USSR times too.
I would advise to invite the best experts in the World, if necessary, to find the whole truth.
USSR population was slave of total lies and intimidation.
Truth will help to set them free...

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 23, 2014 19:47
Saakashvili is likely right, but Russia always had means to intimidate and control the population of USSR and east Europe, even now they had no problems to murder Polish government with its President and replace it with pro-Russian one that might allow Russia conquer Poland as easy as South Ossetia, East Moldova and Crimea.
If one resist, they sit in his brain with telepaths and make him eat his tie, or made some mistakes in his speeches for Ukraine - stronger and more evil, like Russia, shouldn't be given an excuse of appearance, if it is possible.
Like in case of Jesus Christ:
Only Pharisees new him in face, but they couldn't point him out during arrest, that would be conflict of interests with Judges - they wouldn't find him innocent if they themselves pointed him out.
They told it to Jesus Christ through Judas.
Jesus Christ agreed and said, they want me and my Father in Heaven be their plagiarized slaves, as they tried during Moses, against main covenant.
I will decline and they will kill me anywhere.
Still, let not give them technical excuse to do it, trying to put before God somewhat questionable case.
The same is Georgia, Ukraine and the rest of CIS and Eastern Europe.
We are like Jesus Christ to be judged by Pharisees, usurpers of Russia and the devil.
Forever we say, Russia will use it as technicality to excuse invasion and repopulation.
But let not knowingly give them such food for "security" or "precedent" propaganda.

by: Patriot from: Hamburg
March 24, 2014 11:01
2008 President of Poland visited Georgia and stopped the aggression of Russia. Two year later he was killed under very weird circumstances in Smolensk (Russia). The explanations were very similar to today's behavior of Putin in Cremea. He says there are self defense troops there. In Smolemsk the plane fall down in small pieces but he said the pilots made mistake.

Putin made clear he is a bandit without scruple.

Germsny supports him. This game is very dangerous. It will cost the ww3.

by: Mike from: Hamburg, Germany
March 24, 2014 13:32
2008 Putin ordered aggression in Georgia. President of Poland along with other 5 Presidents came to Tbilisi and stopped the war. In his very emotional speech he described the targets of Russia's ambitions to create again the slavery in the neighboring countries. Two years he was killed in Smolensk. The circumstances of his dead we're similar to today's situation in Crimea. Today there are no Russian soldiers there. In Smolensk the airplane fell down in many pieces but Putins a inclement was the pilots made mistake and he ordered an investigation against pilots.

He revealed his face as a bandit without scruple.

Olympia Games were a parallel to 1936 in Berlin. Germany support him now. This is a very dangerous game. It leads directly to the Third World War. How much can it cost?

by: George from Georgia from: USA
March 26, 2014 00:46
I believe the correct answer is the combination of the three possible explanations discussed in this article: he is guilty, as much as the prosecutor is mishandling the situation due to lack of skill and experience on one hand and due to pressure from people wanting revenge against Saakashvili at any cost on the other hand. No matter how sure I am that he did order assassinations, was barried in corruption, and abused power, it would be fullish to deny political motives behind summoning him for questioning.regarding 10 (!) unrelated cases at once.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.