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Ex-Interior Minister refuses UNM post

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, January 25
Georgia’s former interior Minister under the United National Movement leadership, Vano Merabishvili, has announced he no longer wishes to be the Secretary General of the UNM opposition, the party which ran Georgia between 2003-2012 and which has recently been divided into two factions.

Merabishvili, who continues to serve a prison sentence, posted on Facebook in the wake of the UNM congress held on January 20, which left him as the Secretary General of the party, and claimed that he did not give his consent to occupy the position.

The statement was followed by Merabishvili’s meeting with the UNM political council head, Nika Melia, on January 23.

Melia voiced Merabishvili’s decision that he did not want to remain at the party’s key role.

Melia also said Merabishvili would make a political statement about the split of the UNM and his approach to the issue after his case is discussed in the European Court of Human Rights in March.

UNM member Levan Bejashvili stated there are “two reasons” as to why Merabishvili made his decision.

“One reason is that he has friends in the European Georgian party, where the people who have recently left the UNM are united…or simply that he doesn’t want to continue his political career.”

About 60 members left the UNM more than a week ago after a controversy over the party leadership emerged after the October Parliamentary Elections, in which the UNM managed to gain 27 seats in the 150-member legislative body.

One wing of the UNM wanted ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and other leaders currently in prison to quit their leading posts in the party, as they hindered the party’s advancement as they were unable to play active roles.

However, the party failed to reach a consensus, and the factions split.

The Kutaisi Court ordered Merabishvili’s pre-trial detention in May 2013, and his motion for release was declined four months later.

Over the following months, in several separate trials the former PM and Interior Minister was found guilty and sentenced to jail. In February 2014, the Kutaisi Court found Merabishvili guilty of the charge of exceeding his official power and was sentenced to four years and six months in prison.

Merabishvili claimed his pre-trial detention had not been governed by clear legal rules and sentencing him had been unreasonable.

Merabishvili also claimed his pre-trial detention served the purpose of excluding him from being involved in the country’s political life, as he was appointed Secretary General of UNM after the 2012 Parliamentary Elections [when the current ruling Georgian Dream party defeated the nine-year rule of the UNM] and intended to participate in the 2013 presidential elections.