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Georgia Files Criminal Charges Against Ex-President
Georgia Files Criminal Charges Against Ex-President
KIEV, Ukraine — The general prosecutor of Georgia filed criminal charges on Monday against former President Mikheil Saakashvili, accusing him of abuse of power, largely for his handling of political protests that turned violent in November 2007.

Mr. Saakashvili, who carried out a series of sweeping political changes from 2004 to 2012, left office in November after serving the maximum of two terms. His popularity had fallen and his party’s candidate lost.

The charges against Mr. Saakashvili are the latest — and most significant — in a series of seemingly politically motivated prosecutions against former officials in his administration. One of Mr. Saakashvili’s closest allies, a former prime minister, was convicted of corruption in February, and a former mayor of Tbilisi, the capital, who is now a political opposition leader, was arrested and jailed without bail this month.

Ivane Merabishvili, shown last May, was convicted Monday of charges stemming from a scheme of vote-buying before the 2012 elections.Former Prime Minister of Georgia Convicted of CorruptionFEB. 17, 2014
Expecting that he would become a target of his political rivals, Mr. Saakashvili left Georgia after his term ended and has been living and working in the United States and Europe.

Western officials, including the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and the United States ambassador in Georgia, Richard Norland, have expressed concerns about the pattern of politically tinged prosecutions.

The European Union signed a political association agreement with Georgia in June that requires the country to demonstrate commitment to Western-style democratic norms. The government of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has denied any political aims and has pointed to the recent

detention of former President Nicolas Sarkozy of France as an equivalent example of a former leader being held accountable by the legal system.

Mr. Saakashvili gained prominence as the leader of Georgia’s peaceful Rose Revolution, which ousted President Eduard A. Shevardnadze, but in November 2007 he found the tables turned as his own government faced a series of huge street protests. The protests turned violent, with the police using tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon to disperse the crowd, and Mr. Saakashvili declared a state of emergency that also shut two television stations, including Imedi, the country’s principal opposition news outlet.

The criminal case announced on Monday accuses Mr. Saakashvili of abusing his authority by using force to suppress the protests and also of illegally trying to seize Imedi television from its owner.

In response to the protests, Mr. Saakashvili called early presidential elections, which he won narrowly in January 2008.

The prosecutor’s office noted that Mr. Saakashvili had been summoned for questioning in other matters and had failed to appear. Four other senior officials in Mr. Saakashvili’s government were indicted with him.

“The violent dispersal of demonstrators,” the prosecutors’ office said, “was based on an illegal order issued by then President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili.”

Mr. Saakashvili and his supporters rejected the charges as baseless and said that voters of Georgia already delivered their verdict on his handling of the protests when they re-elected him to another term.

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