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Georgian prosecutors summon ex-president Saakashvili for questioning

Source: Reuters - Sat, 22 Mar 2014 13:20 GMT
Author: Reuters
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In this 2010 file photo, then Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (L) is welcomed by Romanian President Traian Basescu at Cotroceni presidential palace in Bucharest REUTERS/Sorin Lupsa/Presidential Press Service/Handout
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By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI, March 22 (Reuters) - The Georgian prosecutor's office has summoned former president Mikheil Saakashvili for questioning about the poisoning death of a former prime minister and other cases amid a wave of charges and verdicts against former officials.

He will also be questioned on alleged government misspending, a raid on a Tbilisi television station and a presidential pardon for four murder convicts during his two terms in office from 2004 to 2013, prosecutor Koka Katsitadze told a news conference on Saturday

Saakashvili's party lost power to an opposition coalition in 2012. Since then, dozens of former officials have been charged or sentenced in cases his allies have called a government witch-hunt against them.

Western countries have expressed concern that the government has used selective justice and political persecution against opponents in the mountainous ex-Soviet republic, which is a pivot of geopolitical rivalry between Russia and the West.

After mentioning the death of former prime minister Zurab Zhvania and several corruption cases, Katsitadze told journalists: "We need to question Saakashvili ... as a witness in connection with these other cases as well."

Zhvania died in February 2005 from toxic fumes said to have come from a faulty heater. On Friday, prosecutors arrested one of his bodyguards and the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Zhvania and charged them with neglect of official duty.

Katsitadze said Saakashvili, who is not currently in Georgia, should appear at the prosecutor's office on March 27.

When asked by Georgian journalists in Brussels earlier this week if he would return home if summoned by prosecutors, Saakashvili said: "I am not participating in dirty intrigues."

Saakashvili's close ally, former prime minister Vano Merabishvili, was sentenced last month to five years in prison for corruption and four and one half years for misuse of power in breaking up a protest rally in Tbilisi in May 2011. (Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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