WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of State expressed concern Tuesday following news that former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, is facing criminal charges.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki cautioned that "the legal system should not be used as a tool of political retribution," adding that the U.S. government will continue to monitor Saakashvili's case "and continue to stress to Georgian officials the importance of rigorous adherence to due process and the rule of law."
Georgia's prosecutor general's office announced the charges on Monday, alleging Saakashvili abused the power of his office by authorizing the use of police force (tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon) when political protests turned violent in November 2007, and shutting down an opposition television station during a declared national emergency.
Saakashvili was elected president of Georgia in 2004 and narrowly won re-election in 2008 following early presidential elections he called in response to the political protests. Saakashvili concluded his second term in 2012.
He then re-located to the U.S. and Europe in order to avoid becoming the target of political rivals.
U.S. and European Union officials have argued that charges against Saakashvili and other similar charges filed against officials from his administration appear politically motivated.
Saakashvili maintains his innocence, asserting there was no abuse of power, and points to his re-election following the November 2007 protests as evidence.