Tbilisi: pressure grows to pardon former president Saakashvili
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Demonstrations in the country and abroad. However, the current head of state Zurabislavili is stalling. Without Saakashvili's release, the possibility of EU entry is out of the question. The ruling Georgian Dream wants precisely this: to feed a 'nationalist consensus that wants Georgia out of everything'.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Under the slogan #FreeMisha, solidarity demonstrations for former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili were held in over 40 cities around the world in recent days. Participants demanded his release from prison and proper treatment abroad, especially after reports of his possible poisoning in prison. The demands appealed to Georgia's President Salome Zurabišvili to pardon his predecessor.

In a briefing Zurabišvili commented: 'My answer will be there when it is there', disappointing expectations, but without completely closing the door on the prospect of an act of clemency. Many wonder how this crisis will be resolved,

In an interview with Ekho Kavkaza, political scientist Kakha Gogolašvili, director of the Centre for European Research at the Rondeli Fund in Tbilisi, recalls that the president has repeatedly said that 'she will never grant clemency to the third president of Georgia'. During her trips to Europe, however, many leaders of various countries asked her to reconsider her position. Zurabišvili has tried to deflect, saying that she does not have the necessary powers, and that legal procedures in the courts must first be concluded. At the same time, 'she knows that if Saakašvili dies, all the responsibility would fall on her, even more than on the party of the Georgian Dream', now in power.

Saakashvili wrote a letter of thanks to US financier William Browder, who openly supported him, asking him not to wait for his death to help Georgians compile their own 'Magnitsky list'. Browder is known for naming an initiative to support victims of power around the world after Russian lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, who died in prison in Moscow in 2009 after exposing the corruption of Putin bureaucrats.

Georgia has long been split into two irreducible fronts, and the figure of the former president is the symbolic reason for the dispute, while Zurabišvili tries to carve out the role of the arbitrator above the parties. Gogolašvili believes that 'in the end, the president will decide for a pardon, but very cautiously and slowly, waiting for the right moment and trying to get the maximum consensus from the population'.

The real issue remains the relationship with Europe, 'vital for Georgia's survival, not just that of the imprisoned president', says Gogolašvili. If the president grants Saakašvili a pardon, and succeeds in getting him out of the country and back to health, "the European Union would almost certainly turn a blind eye to the insufficient answers to the 12 conditions set for him to become a candidate". On the contrary, even if all the demands were fully met, the issue of Saakashvili would remain as an insurmountable boulder to achieve the desired result.

The EU Parliament made an appeal for the release of the former Georgian president some time ago, supported by an overwhelming majority of MPs. In fact, while the demonstrations in favour of Saakashvili were taking place, there was also a gathering of people against the pardon in front of the presidential palace in Tbilisi, and as the political scientist says, 'they are precisely the exponents of that political and social section that does not want Georgia's entry into the EU'.

One of these anti-Europeans seems to be the mayor of the capital, former footballer Kakha Kaladze, 'who is not interested in whether we join Europe or not, he is fine where he is, he can go to any European country, he doesn't lack fame or money'. The Georgian Dream politicians in power, explains Gogolašvili, prefer to show themselves 'above these issues' in order to feed a 'nationalist consensus that wants Georgia out of everything'.

However, the expert urges us to 'think about the next generations, our children and grandchildren'. The current one has gone through many difficulties, but it must ensure that the country 'is not subject to constant threats to its independence and integrity', otherwise the republic of Georgia will disappear in the whirlpool of mutual invasions and wars between East and West.