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U.S. has concerns about justice in Georgia

May 23, 2013 at 9:08 AM

WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- Authorities in Georgia are called on to ensure charges against former government officials aren't politically motivated, the U.S. State Department said.

Georgian authorities this week arrested President Mikheil Saakashvili's allies, former Georgian Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili and former Labor Minister Zurab Chiaberashvili, on charges of abusing political office and corruption.

The European Union last year expressed concern about selective justice in Georgia after Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili appointed ministers allied with former President Eduard Shevardnadze, ousted in the country's Rose Revolution in 2004.

U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Washington shared European concerns.

"We have stressed to the Georgian government the importance of conducting such investigations and prosecutions with full respect for due process and avoiding the perception or reality of political retribution," he said.

Saakashvili was criticized for breaking off ties with Russia following a brief war in 2008 over disputed territory. Ivanishvili said Saakashvili's decisions were a blow to Georgia's integrity.

Ventrell said that, if the charges are legitimate, the judicial process needs to unfold "in a way that the public has confidence that there's due process for everybody, fairly."

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