Europe urges Georgia to avoid political 'revenge' in courts

By Margarita Antidze
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks during news conference in Kiev, December 7, 2013. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI (Reuters) - A group of European lawmakers urged Georgia on Thursday not to pursue "revenge" when prosecuting members of the previous government of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili.

Saakashvili, who became president in 2004 after the bloodless "Rose Revolution", was charged with exceeding his authority after his second term ended last November. Prosecutors impounded his property and he has since left the country.

Dozens of other former officials, including a former prime minister, defence and interior minister and the mayor of the capital Tbilisi, have been arrested on charges such as abuse of power and corruption.

"Georgia will have to overcome the antagonism, polarisation and sense of revenge still present in order to continue its democratic development," the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said in a resolution on Georgia.

The assembly, part of the 47-nation Council of Europe, called for fair trials and said pre-trial detention must not be used "for political purposes".

Western countries have expressed concern that the new government, first formed under the premiership of Saakashvili's political rival, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, has used selective justice and political persecution against opponents.

Leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition, which beat Saakashvili's party at the polls in October 2012, deny using the courts to settle political scores.

"All questions and concerns that are raised in this resolution, will get a response. It will be a convincing response to our European neighbours and not (what is said by) those who are trying to use this resolution to cover their crime and justify mistakes," David Usupashvili, parliamentary speaker, told journalists.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)