Did Saakashvili ask for asylum from Orbán?

Last week Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili showed up at Viktor Orbán’s doorstep in Budapest. He came with a video crew.

Mr. Saakashvili is in a peculiar situation, he is on the run. He left Georgia in mid-November 2013, two days before his presidential term officially expired.

Georgian authorities recently brought charges against him under part three of article 333 of their criminal code. He is accused of exceeding official powers, use of violence and insulting victims’ dignity. If convicted, he can spend 5 to 8 years in jail in Tbilisi. Mr. Saakashvili currently has a Dutch wife, and temporarily resides in the US where he has no citizenship.

Mr. Saakashvili insists the charges are politically motivated, and the Georgian authorities are trying to “restrict” his international travels and active advocacy for Ukraine .

In Budapest, the ex-resident told Georgian journalists that he does not need to seek asylum from any country. Absolutely not!

Photo: Mr. Orban (left) with Mr. Saakashvili (right)  and "boychik" Péter Szíjjártó  Hungarian foreign minister-designate in the middle.

Photo: Mr. Orban (left) with Mr. Saakashvili (right) and “boychik” Péter Szíjjártó Hungarian foreign minister-designate in the middle.

Standing alongside with Mr. Orbán, he said that there are only two countries where he cannot go – Georgia and Russia. “As you see I am now here in one of the Europe’s main countries with its leader. ” he added, “This is temporary, very, very temporary.”

According to press reports Georgian authorities pressed criminal charges against several other former high-ranking officials, among them Mr. Zurab Adeishvili, chief prosecutor in 2007 and then justice minister. It was reported, that Mr. Adeishvili has already received asylum in Hungary.

Mr. Adeishvili was the ex-president’s “enforcer”; he willingly put behind bars hundreds of Mr. Saakashvili’s political enemies.

Mr. Orbán told the Rustavi2 TV crew that Saakashvili’s political persecution is unacceptable. “Of course, I can’t be objective, because we are friends, we have been cooperating for a long time. I remember the period from the history of Georgia, when you carried out reforms, which, of course, were unique and impressive. So, I’m happy that we had been cooperating with the previous government,” said Orbán.

Orbán also added that it is very difficult to transform and modernize a country and to convince people of the rightness of the leaders’ decisions. “We had also been cooperating at the international level. We belonged to the one party – the European People’s Party, so I support Mikheil Saakashvili and his political party. I am proud that we are members of one political family. We condemn and oppose all forms of his harassment, because we believe that this is not the way forward.’’

On the video footage Mr. Orbán looks visibly uncomfortable. Western media frequently calls him authoritarian implying that he is exceeding official powers. His Fidesz party’s election practices were also criticized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, just like Mr. Saakashvili’s electoral process. There have also been calls to remove Orbán’s Fidesz party from European People’s Party Group.

György Lázár
The author is a freelance journalist based in California.

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