Georgia: The Saakashvili Chase Continues at Sea
In the latest episode of the cat-and-mouse game between Georgia's current authorities and its former president, Mikheil (Misha) Saakashvili allegedly nearly escaped arrest in Greece.
The Georgian government may not be aware of it, but its attempts to catch the ex-president increasingly resemble Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. Though Saakashvili and his entourage ardently deny it, Georgian officials claim that border guards at the Greek vacation island of Samos on September 1 briefly detained a yacht carrying the ex-president and “other Georgian citizens.”
Georgian prosecutors asserted that they had alerted the Greek police about the menace approaching their shores, but the Greek authorities released Saakashvili for lack of an international arrest warrant. Georgian Ambassador to Greece Davit Bakradze claimed that the boat arrived from Turkey, and was detained for four hours. Also on board allegedly was Saakashvili's friend, the former governor of Georgia's seaside region of Achara, Levan Varshalomidze.
Georgia’s general prosecutor’s office said it has yet to convince Interpol to place the former Georgian president on the organization's international search list.
In September 3 comments to Rustavi2, Saakashvili angrily denied that he had been detained in Greece for any length of time.
Saakashvili's longtime aide and ex-National Security Council chief, Giga Bokeria, accused Georgia's ambassador and the ruling Georgian-Dream coalition of spreading petty rumors.
With widespread skepticism in the West over the current Georgian government's motives for going after Saakashvili, persuading the international community to catch and hand over Misha might not be an easy task.
With prosecutors busy cranking out oodles of charges against Saakashvili and members of his United National Movement (UNM), concerns persist that the ruling establishment still is engaged in a political vendetta. The government adamantly denies it.
The preoccupation with Saakashvili creates a bit of a bizarre situation, however. Saakashvili now appears in Georgian headlines more often than the country's current president, Giorgi Margvelashvili.
The ever-mobile Misha himself goes around holding "official meetings" abroad pretty much as he did during his tenure.
In fact, he now claims (speaking from Albania) that he's out-visited the entire Georgian government in the past months.
Most recently, with Georgian TV crews in tow, he held a meeting with his UNM allies just across the Turkish-Georgian border -- close enough to tease Georgian prosecutors, but still out of reach.