On June 28, the municipal court of Tbilisi condemned former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in absentia to a sentence of 6 years in prison, for commissioning an violent attack on the opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili, which resulted in serious injuries.
Saakashvili was found guilty on two counts: abusing his presidential power to order the aggression and causing the victim permanent and intentional damage, putting his life at risk. The sentence, initially set at 8 years, was subsequently reduced by two years as a result of an amnesty law enacted in 2012. The court also banned him from any public office for a period of two years and three months.
The Gelashvili case
In June 2005, Valeri Gelashvili, businessman and member of parliament for the opposition, gave an interview in which he accused then president Saakashvili of having confiscated his property to build a new presidential palace, without receiving compensation from the state. During the interview Gelashvili made offensive statements against the president and his family, apparently provoking the anger of Saakashvili, who, according to the Georgian court, ordered the then Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili to “take care” of Gelashvili in revenge.
Following the refusal of Okruashvili, Saakashvili then approached Minister of the Interior Vano Merabishvili with the same request, who, on July 14, organised the ambush against Gelashvili. The Mercedes in which the parliamentarian was traveling was blocked in one of the streets in the centre of the Georgian capital by two cars, from which several armed men with covered faces descended and attacked Gelashvili. According to court in Tbilisi, during the attack Gelashvili received “injuries that endangered his life, causing permanent facial disfigurement”.
On August 5, 2014, the Georgian prosecutor started a trial against the four people held responsible for the ambush suffered by Gelashvili: in addition to former president Saakashvili the former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, the former director of the Department of Special Operations Erekle Kodua and the former division commander of the Ministry of the Interior, Gia Siradze, were also accused. They have been sentenced to prison terms of six to nine years.
Second sentence for Saakashvili
The decision of the Tbilisi Court in the Gelashvili case represents the second sentence for the former Georgian president, who was found guilty of abuse of power in another case for the murder of the banker Sandro Girgvliani, dating back to 2006, for which he received a sentence of three years in prison.
On January 28, 2006, the body of Girgvliani, then president of the Foreign Department of the Georgian Unita Bank, was found lifeless and with multiple injuries near the outskirts of Tbilisi. According to a report by the television channel Imedi, the banker’s death was due to the events that occurred the night before, when Girgvliani went to a bar where the birthday party of a senior member of the Ministry of the Interior was being held. While at the party the banker got into an argument with Minister Merabishvili’s wife, Tako Salakaia.
The court found that the murder was ordered by officials from the ministry on the orders of Merabishvili. According to the Georgian court, former president Saakashvili abused his powers by obstructing the investigation into Girgvliani’s murder in order to protect his ally, Merabishvili.
In an interview with Georgian TV, Saakashvili, who left Georgia in 2013 and currently lives in Amsterdam, denounced the ruling of the Tbilisi Court as “illegal” and the result of political persecution by his political rivals.
In addition to having to face the sentences imposed on him by the Girgvliani and Gelashvili cases, former president Saakashvili is wanted in the Caucasian country for two other cases: the first concerns the excessive violence with which the police quelled anti-government protests in November 2007, the raid against the Imedi television station and the seizure of assets owned by the magnate Badri Patarkatsishvili.
In the second trial the former president is accused of misspending about 8.83 million lari (about three million euro) of public funds on personal purposes between 2009 and 2013. Saakashvili has always denied the accusations, calling them “politically motivated.”