Georgia's ex-President Mikheil Saakaashvili is, by himself, controversial enough. But add two former prime ministers -- one dead, one living -- to the mix and you've got the makings of an HBO special.
The basic plot line is simple enough: busy reexamining the investigation into Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania's 2005 death, the Georgian government has summoned Saakashvili, Zhvania's political ally, to Tbilisi for questioning on this and a host of other issues.
But the ex-president, now on an international circuit of advising, teaching and commenting, has refused to come, saying he smells a plot. Namely, between Russian President Vladimir Putin and ex-Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of Georgia's ruling Georgian Dream coalition, to run him into the ground. And to shut him up on advising the acting Ukrainian government about how to respond to Putin's armed sally into Crimea.
"Of course, I will come to Georgia, but not now, to fulfil Putin's wishes . . ." he told Georgian TV reporters. He did not present any proof for his allegations.
In an interview published in the March 24 edition of Kviris Palitra, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili warned that if Saajashvili does not obey the summons for March 27, "he will place himself in a dire situation and even more questions will arise."
Meanwhile, the US State Department appears to have some questions of its own for Tbilisi. A March 23 statement related to the summons expressed concern "about political retribution" and urged Georgia "to focus the nation's energies" elsewhere.
Given the exhaustive laundry list of topics on which prosecutors supposedly intend to question the ex-president, concerns as to procedure and grounds could well be due. Aside from Zhvania's death, the hit-list includes eight other topics, ranging from the investigation into banker Sandro Girgvliani's 2006 death to the alleged 2009 Mukhrovani military mutiny. And the government's 2011-2012 actions against Cartu Bank, set up by the Georgian-Dreamer-in-Chief, Ivanishvili.
Some might question why the Georgian government has chosen now to pursue Saakashvili on all of these cases. Local elections on June 15 suggest a motivation, but not an all-encompassing one. With an association agreement with the European Union slotted for signature by June and a NATO membership plan (MAP) perhaps in the offing for September, the timing could not be worse for rubbing old sore spots between Georgia and the West about alleged political witch hunts.
A worried Matthew Bryza, a former Deputy Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs known for his friendly ties with Saakashvili, warned Georgia's Public Television on March 23 that chasing after the ex-president could harm Georgia's MAP chances.
In a March 24 interview with Interpressnews, however, European Integration Committee Chairperson Viktor Dolidze brushed off the concern. "Saakashvili's questioning and the country's Euro-integration process have no connection with each other," he said. "This is not logical."