The U.S. follows closely legal proceedings against former officials and stressed to the Georgian government the importance of “avoiding the perception or reality of political retribution,” Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesperson of the Department of State said on May 22.
He made the remarks at a news briefing after he was asked by Georgian channel Rustavi 2 TV’s correspondent about the arrest of former PM Vano Merabishvili and former healthcare minister Zurab Tchiaberashvili. Court ordered pretrial detention of Merabishvili and release of Tchiaberashvili on GEL 20,000 bail pending the trial.
“We are closely following the cases of detentions and investigations of alleged abuse by former officials. We have stressed to the Georgian Government the importance of conducting such investigations and prosecutions with full respect for due process and avoiding the perception or reality of political retribution. The United States encourages all political actors to continue to work together constructively toward the shared goal of advancing Georgia’s democratic and economic development and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Department of State’s acting deputy spokesperson said.
In follow up to this topic he was then pressed with series of questions from AP correspondent, who tried to get an answer on whether the U.S. calls for “avoiding the perception or reality of political retribution” meant that Washington was actually “concerned” that there might be political motives behind the arrests.
Asked if the U.S. believed there was either a perception or a reality of political prosecutions, Ventrell responded that the Department of State had not made an assessment one way or another on this particular case, involving the arrest of ex-PM and ex-healthcare minister. “We don’t have a particular determination one way or another in this case,” he said.
After being questioned for number of times if the U.S had a concern that the case might be politically motivated, Ventrell responded that he would not go into “hypothetical” discussion of what might or might not be and in what direction the process might go.
“But you did that in Ukraine,” the AP correspondent told the acting deputy spokesperson, apparently referring to the case of imprisoned former PM Yulia Tymoshenko.
“That’s where we have a very clear pattern,” Ventrell responded referring to the Ukrainian case and added by saying on Georgia’s case: “Here is one where we’re watching.”
When the same correspondent suggested that call for the Georgian authorities to avoid perception or reality of political prosecutions was indicating on the U.S. having concerns that there might be political motives behind the case, Ventrell responded: “That’s not what I said.”
“What we’re reminding the Georgian authorities is that if you’re going after former officials, whether there’s misconduct or misappropriation of funds or whatever the facts of the case may be, that the proceedings have to be done in a way that generates confidence that they’re a free, fair judicial process and that they’re done in a way that the public has confidence that there’s due process for everybody, fairly. So that’s the message that we’re delivering,” Ventrell added.