“Tbilisi City Court dismissed Mikheil Saakashvili’s request to postpone his sentence. The president does not and cannot debate the justice or injustice of this judgement, but the political assessment of this decision is up to all of us. One thing is clear: with this ruling, the Georgian people were sentenced to be trapped in a vicious circle, becoming hostages to this situation”, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said in her statement on Tuesday.
As President noted, everyone should stop speculating and playing with the future of the country.
The full text of the statement is below:
“‘On February 6, Tbilisi City Court dismissed Mikheil Saakashvili’s request to postpone his sentence.
The president does not and cannot debate the justice or injustice of this judgement, but the political assessment of this decision is up to all of us. One thing is clear: with this ruling, the Georgian people were sentenced to be trapped in a vicious circle, becoming hostages to this situation.
The unprecedented discrediting of the country continues, preventing the healthy growth of our relations with partners, preventing us from expressing our solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their country during this greatest acting challenge, which damages the Georgian tradition, preventing our recognised European perspective, and preventing us from working on the 12 recommendations and their implementation, hence our EU candidate status.
The country is held prisoner by this single issue. At the moment, the other critical concerns for us are not even being discussed in public. The government is not developing the essential plan, neither on the mounting trends of manpower outflow, mostly young people, nor on the mass influx from Russia and preventing its potential hazards.
For the vast majority of the population, a completely offensive question and doubt arose about us: whether Georgia sticks to its declared course or return to Russia’s orbit.
The country’s reputation suffered, trust was undermined, and our role in the new geopolitical backdrop became uncertain. That might be dangerous if Russia believes we have lost the unequivocal backing of our traditional allies.
This kind of discrediting is the result of the joint efforts of the ruling party and the opposition: On the one hand, the government’s rhetoric, obstinate decisions, and perplexing leniency towards Russia (excessive caution when mentioning Russia, persistent rhetoric of sanctions evasion, or a positive assessment of flight resumption) contrast with a strict stance towards Ukrainians and our partners, and frequently offensive criticism. On the other hand, beyond the “humanitarian positioning,” messages damaging the country’s reputation by some members of Mikheil Saakashvili’s family, which turned into a well-planned and executed campaign (selective and unjustified simile with Putin’s Russia and Navalny’s imprisonment, mention of Auschwitz), were no less damaging.
No presidential pardon can help this mutual dishonour because it is merely an expression of the president’s personal will rather than a reflection of the regime’s policy change or the true depolarization that Europe requires from us. Given the former president’s words and his unacknowledged and unrepentant crimes, it is expected that if he is released, he would become an active opponent not just of the government, but also of the country’s reputation and therefore of its European chances.
The responsibility for plunging the country into this situation is equally shared by those who convinced the former president to arrive, and those who let him in and now actually refuse to let him go.
The government was successful in effectively removing the European path and executing the 12 recommendations from the political agenda.
Allowing the country to squander this big opportunity, reducing our European path to a secondary concern, and substituting it with another topic, is a crime and a great responsibility for the future. The abandoned people fleeing the country on this day are the equal responsibility of the government and opposition parties.
Pointing fingers at the president accomplish nothing more than deceiving the public, pretending that everyone is unaware that Mikheil Saakashvili will not be released by the president’s pardon (he is charged in three other cases), and, most importantly, pretending that this signature will help the country avoid losing face and reputation, rebound, and achieve decisive success on the European front.
Another effort and level of awareness are needed to restore the image and trust: from the authorities, that this issue is harming the country and that a legal and humane solution should be found; and from the opposition, that Saakashvili confesses his crime and frees the country and the opposition from the hostage situation by leaving politics.
Everyone should stop speculating and playing with the future of this country, take responsibility, and stop damaging the country’s reputation. This topic should be eliminated from Georgian political discourse, and the country should be allowed to breathe, live, grow, and be recognised as an honourable candidate of the European Union! This is the will and order of the Georgian people towards their government, and no one has the right not to do all in their power to carry it out!”