Senators call on Georgian prime minister to avoid political retribution

Senators call on Georgian prime minister to avoid political retribution

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators wrote to Bidzina Ivanishvili late last week to urge the Georgian prime minister to prove to the world that Georgia is not using its courts to exert political retribution on the officials of the former government of President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"We are deeply troubled by reports of detentions, investigations, imprisonment and allege persecution of political figures associated with the opposition party in Georgia," wrote Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), James Risch (R-ID), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John McCain (R-AZ), in a Dec. 6 letter obtained by The Cable. "We write today to express our growing concerns about the possibility that these moves are politically motivated and designed to settle political scores in the aftermath of the recent election. We urge you to ensure that your administration does everything necessary to avoid even the perception of selective justice against member of the previous government."

In the weeks since the Georgian Dream Party, led by billionaire Ivanishvili, won parliamentary elections, high-level U.S. and European officials have expressed concern that the prosecutions — amounting thus far to 23 officials of the previous government for alleged crimes including corruption and torture — are politically motivated.

Shaheen and Risch traveled to Georgia to observe the elections and praised both sides at the time. But now they are warning that Georgia’s relationship with the world and with the United States in particular depends on the new government continuing down the road of democratic reform and ensuring the rule of law, political pluralism, and a culture of cooperation with the opposition.

The senators directly referenced The Cable‘s interview last month with Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze as evidence that Georgia’s new government is not upholding its promises to let the legal system operate absent political influence.

"We welcome your words ruling out selective justice, but we regret to say that we are deeply concerned by developments this far. Especially troubling were the recent comments from your foreign minister, Ms. Maia Panjikidze, when she declared that former Georgian officials are ‘criminals and guilty,’" they wrote. "Guilt and innocence should be determined by an impartial court, to do otherwise undermines the rule of law."

"This year’s parliamentary elections were no doubt divisive; however, the campaign is over," they wrote.