Rep. Michael Turner (R., Ohio) reiterated concerns about the ongoing crackdown on Georgia’s political opposition in a statement Wednesday after meeting with Tedo Japaridze, chairman of the Georgian Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee. Turner put forward an amendment last month that subsequently passed the House and warned of the “negative impact” the crackdown could have on U.S.-Georgian relations.
The amendment decried “democratic backsliding” in the country and criminal charges against more than 100 government officials since Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a close Kremlin ally, was elected in October 2012.
“Georgia has many allies in Congress who expect the newly elected government to function as a strong democracy. The incidents of persecutions, abuse, and violence are very troubling,” he said.
The Ivanishvili government’s arrests have netted dozens President Mikhail Saakashvili’s allies, include the former Prime Minister Ivane Merabishvili. who was previously expected to be a leading opposition candidate in Presidential elections this fall. Saakashvili has close ties to Washington and had sent troops to support US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ivanishvili’s government recently enlisted Washington firm Patton Boggs LLP to dissuade lawmakers from withdrawing economic and military support and to push back on press reports that Ivanishvili was allowing Georgia to become a safe haven for Iranian money and interests.
Victoria Nuland, the Obama administration’s nominee for assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, also expressed unease about the alleged political motivations of the arrests at her nomination hearing.
“Nobody wants to see Georgia slide backward,” she said.