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Top rights court rejects former Georgia president's case

By AFP

May 23, 2024 09:27 PM


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The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday rejected appeals of criminal convictions by Georgia's former president Mikheil Saakashvili, finding the trials in his home country had been fair.

Saakashvili was convicted in 2018 of ordering riot police to brutally beat a Georgian MP in 2005, and of wrongly pardoning a group of interior ministry officers for the 2006 murder of a young man, Sandro Girgvliani.

He claimed that his right to a fair trial had been infringed, as the Georgian courts should not have taken at face value incriminating evidence from a former minister and former speaker of parliament, who had both since become his political opponents.

Saakashvili also complained that the judge in the second case had been involved in the original Girgvliani murder trial and could not have been impartial about his pardon for the perpetrators.

He further said he could not have known that the presidential power of pardon was restricted, infringing his right not to be punished without a specific law.

And he argued that both cases had been motivated by political persecution against him, rather than serving justice.

Judges at the ECHR in Strasbourg -- which hears cases involving potential breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights and is separate from the European Union -- dismissed Saakashvili's arguments.

Georgian courts had fairly assessed the reliability of testimony from the former minister and parliament speaker, which was not the only evidence against him, they found.

Meanwhile, the judge Saakashvili complained about had only a technical role in the original Girgvliani murder trial whose convicts the then-president pardoned in which Saakashvili was not himself a defendant, the court said.

The ECHR said that Saakashvili "could reasonably have foreseen that his conduct would render him criminally liable" when agreeing to pardon the convicts in exchange for their silence about aspects of the case that could have harmed him politically.

"It should have been a matter of common sense for Mr Saakashvili, a leading politician with an extensive legal background, to expect that his decision to collude with people who had either committed a murder or conspired to cover it up would have serious consequences," the judges said.

Finally, the European court found that the prosecutions had not been politically motivated.

"The authorities' honest desire had been to bring Mr Saakashvili to justice for his wrongdoings," they said.

"Even the highest-ranking State official was not, as a matter of principle, immune from prosecution".

Georgia's Justice Minister Rati Bregadze said that "the decision of the Strasbourg court proves that Saakashvili's prosecution has fully met European standards".

Saakashvili now has three months to decide whether to request an appeal to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR, failing which Thursday's judgement will become final.

 


AFP


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