EU warns Georgia against political revenge on former officials
TBILISI (Reuters) - The European Union urged Georgia on Monday to avoid selective justice in the prosecution of former officials from the ousted government of President Mikheil Saakashvili's allies.
The detentions of former state officials since billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili led a coalition to victory over Saakashvili's long-ruling party in parliamentary elections last month has raised fears of a political witch-hunt.
More than 10 former senior officials - including a former interior minister and the army's acting chief-of-staff - have been arrested and charged with abuse of power, illegal confinement or illegally obtaining personal information.
"I've stressed that the European Union calls on all sides in Georgian politics to uphold European values of democracy, freedom and rule of law," said Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
"There should be no selective justice, no retribution against political rivals. Investigations into wrongdoings must be and must be seen to be impartial, transparent and in compliance with due process," she told a conference in the capital Tbilisi after meeting Prime Minister Ivanishvili and Saakashvili.
Washington has also urged cooperation between political rivals in the ex-Soviet republic, a route for Caspian Sea oil and gas exports to Europe and a focus of geopolitical rivalry between the West and Russia, which routed Georgian forces in a five-day war in August 2008.
Ashton also called for cooperation between Ivanishvili and Saakashvili during a difficult period of cohabitation with the president, who is due to remain in his post until an election next year. Saakashvili came to power in the peaceful 2003 Rose Revolution.
Georgia's top prosecutor said on Saturday that former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili could be questioned for alleged abuse of power in the period when he was the interior minister.
Russia increased its military presence in two Moscow-backed breakaway regions of Georgia it recognised as independent after the war, which followed tensions over Saakashvili's drive to bring the country of 4.5 million country into NATO.
Ashton said the European Union was committed to Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
(Editing by Gabriela Baczynska and Pravin Char)