Ex-Georgian President Saakashvili’s mistreatment threatens country’s EU dreams, MEPs say
His death in custody would ‘be a blow to Georgian democracy and to Georgia’s international reputation,’ a European Parliament resolution reads.
The treatment of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is reportedly being poisoned in detention in Tbilisi, poses a threat to Georgia’s ambitions to join the European Union, the European Parliament said in a resolution on Wednesday.
“The continuing failure to improve the situation of former President Mikheil Saakashvili will continue to damage Georgia’s reputation and hamper its European Union candidacy prospects,” says the resolution, which was adopted with an overwhelming majority of 577 against 33, with 26 MEPs abstaining.
“Mikheil Saakashvili’s death in custody would be a blow to Georgian democracy and to Georgia’s international reputation,” the resolution reads.
Georgia applied for EU membership last March, together with Moldova and Ukraine. But, unlike the other two, it was not granted candidate status, and will have to implement several reforms first — including strengthening the independence of the country’s judicial system.
The idea of joining the EU enjoys overwhelming public support in Georgia, but the ruling Georgian Dream party, in power since 2012, has failed to show its commitment to these European aspirations, pushing many to wonder whether Georgian Dream is appeasing Russia to the detriment of Georgia’s European future.
Saakashvili was arrested on abuse of power charges in October 2021, after he returned to Georgia from seven years in self-imposed exile. The former pro-Western president of Georgia has been detained ever since, and claims the charges against him are politically motivated.
On several occasions, he looked gaunt and emaciated and seemed severely diminished in video appearances before the Tbilisi court handling his case over the last few weeks.
Earlier this month, the court rejected his appeal to be released on health grounds.
The Georgian government, under Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, is facing increasing international diplomatic pressure, both from the EU and the United States, to address Saakashvili’s medical condition.
Poland and Ukraine have both offered to welcome the former Georgian president for treatment, but the Georgian authorities have so far refused to release Saakashvili, saying it would “destabilize the country.”
In a last-minute amendment that was also adopted — though with a smaller majority — the Parliament resolution singled out Bidzina Ivanishvili, an oligarch and former prime minister of Georgia, as being responsible for Saakashvili’s continued detention “as part of a personal vendetta” against the former president.
Though officially no longer active in politics, Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia in the 1990s, is widely believed to be pulling the strings in the small Caucasus republic.