Question about comments following the sentencing of Nika Gvaramia
Ambassador Degnan: We have a very long friendship with Georgia, and like all good friends, sometimes we disagree. We need to be able to talk about our disagreements, and we do that usually in private, which is most effective. Sometimes we speak out publicly if it’s an issue that we have great concerns about, and that’s what we did in this case. We issued public statements expressing the United States’ concern about the timing and the charges involved. We’re not alone in expressing these concerns: the Public Defender, a number of NGOs, a number of other international friends of Georgia had the same concerns, so this is not something that was done in secret. This was done quite publicly, and it is quite a normal thing to have happen – this is standard practice. I think it’s being spun up, and I think a lot of is being made out of something that is absolutely not a scandal. It is a very routine business. The United States has spent a long time working with Georgia’s judiciary, building capacity, trying to improve the professionalism, the transparency, the independence of the judicial system. That has involved a lot of exchanges between United States experts and Georgian judges, prosecutors, and attorneys. Again, these are routine meetings that happen all the time, and if people want to mischaracterize them or spin them up into more than what they are, which is just routine meetings, that it is obviously for their own purposes. Our exchange programs have sent over 6,000 Georgians on exchange programs for a variety of reasons: educational, cultural, and judicial. They are open to anyone who is qualified, available, and open to benefiting from the purpose of these exchanges, which is to go to meet with American counterparts, exchange views, learn from each other, and then bring that back to Georgia. That’s what these exchange programs are for. They’ve been extremely popular and successful over the years and I’m confident that they will continue to be so.
Question about an alleged meeting with Bidzina Ivanishvili
Ambassador Degnan: I’m sorry, I’ve been in meetings. I’ve been visiting all kinds of really positive and impressive Georgians throughout the day. I’ve not been following what’s going on in Tbilisi, which is one of the nice things about traveling around the regions in Georgia: you really end up seeing where the future of this country is. And it’s in the regions where people are really focused on the future and not on this. I don’t know what this is about.