Saakashvili Stresses Loyalty to Orthodox Patriarch
Jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili stated in a post published on his Facebook page that he is “a spiritual son” and a supporter of Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Illia II. Saakashvili said he responded to a provocation inspired by Russia, but did not specify further.
Saakashvili stressed he has been a “follower” of the fundamental positions of the Georgian Patriarch and the Holy Synod on all principal issues, including the relations of the Orthodox Church with other Churches.
The address comes a few days after Patriarchal locum tenens Metropolitan Shio Mujiri of Senaki and Chkhorotsku preached against “reconciliation,” a notion supported by the jailed ex-President and several senior clergymen.
Recalling the past, the ex-President argued that during his time as the Justice Minister under Eduard Shevardnadze’s administration, he signed with the Georgian Orthodox Church a deal that laid “groundwork” for the Constitutional Agreement. The latter was signed in 2002 and grants privileges to the GOC, including generous budgetary funding and tax exemptions.
The ex-President also credited his government for adopting the five-cross flag, in a change from a more secular tricolor used by Georgia’s First Republic and restored after the country regained independence in 1991. Saakashvili said he had led the fight for adopting the new flag together with the Georgian Patriarch earlier.
“Together we rebuilt the temples of Bagrati, then Poti and Nekresi,” Saakashvili stressed, continuing to highlight his past relations with the Georgian Patriarch.
“I do not advise anyone to rewrite history because lies have short legs and the society does not have amnesia,” he stressed.
Saakashvili also called on the “authors of these speculations” to raise their voices “about the fact that I am not allowed to carry my little cross on my chest in prison.” Relevant legislation says inmates are only allowed to keep wooden crosses.
Following Saakashvili’s arrest, several senior clergymen, including Metropolitan Nikoloz (Pachuashvili) of Akhalkalaki, Kumurdo and Kars and Bishop of Margveti and Ubisi Melkisedek (Khachidze) paid a visit to the jailed ex-President.
The clergymen have spoken of “national reconciliation” and “forgiveness” amid Georgia’s tumultuous political developments. In a letter penned in jail, Saakashvili also addressed thousands of supporters rallying in Tbilisi on October 14, stressing “it is of utmost importance to realize that our country and society need a great reconciliation.”
Saakashvili, now a Ukrainian citizen, left the country in November 2013 amidst the end of his second presidential term. He was wanted by the Georgian Dream government on multiple charges for some eight years.
The former President was sentenced in absentia in 2018 on two separate abuse of power charges – three years for pardoning the former Interior Ministry officials, convicted in the high-profile murder case of Sandro Girgvliani, and six years for organizing an attack on opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili.
He is also charged with misappropriation of public funds and exceeding official authority in the 2007 anti-government protests case. Former President denies all the charges as politically motivated.
Since October 1, Georgian authorities are leading a new investigation over Saakashvili’s illegal border crossing. In this regard, new charges may be brought against him under Article 344 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, punishable by three to five years of prison.
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