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More charges against Merabishvili

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, June 26
New charges concerning the abuse of power were levied against the former Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili, on June 25. The Prosecutor's Office delivered new details concerning the well-known murder of Sandro Girgvliani. The Prosecutor's Office claims that Merabishvili was aware of all the details concerning the murder and participated in covering-up various criminal actions

It should be noted that four officers from the Interior Ministry’s department for constitutional security were arrested on March 6, 2006 and were subsequently found guilty of inflicting bodily injuries that resulted in Girgvliani’s death. These officers were sentenced to imprisonment. However, their prison terms were halved as a result of a presidential pardon. In 2009, the pre-term release mechanism was exercised and they were released from prison.

According to a prosecutor, Irakli Tkeshelashvili, the additional charges against Merabishvili were due to the many accusations involving the suppression of important information regarding the Girgvliani case, providing false testimonies, staging an investigation, encouraging corruption by providing illegal privileges for some officers and ensuring the conditions for their pre-term release."

The Prosecutor's Office states that former head of Constitutional Security Department, Data Akhalaia and other former officials were also directly involved in the crime. The 4 individuals who were charged in the crime were given thousands of laris and comfortable living conditions in prison. They also could leave the penitentiary institutions and spend several months at home during their imprisonment period.

Former Parliament speaker, Nino Burjanadze, who provided evidence to law-enforcement concerning Girgvliani's murder, states that she advised Merabishvili to make sure that all the participants of the crime are punished.

"Based on my demand Akalaia left the position of the head of the Constitutional Security Department. Merabishvili and I spoke as well. However, he did not take my advice into account and that has led him directly to this current situation," Burjanadze said.

Head of non-parliamentary Christian-Democratic Movement, Giorgi Targamadze, states that the charges filed against Merabishvili coincide with the versions represented on the TV show Droeba in 2006 (Targamadze was an anchor of the TV program at that time).

"The public should not let the government behave like an uncontrolled monster anymore," Targamadze stated.

Vano Merabishvili’s lawyer, Giorgi Chiviashvili, said that his client believed that like other criminal charges, the new one was also “politically motivated”. The lawyer claims that for Merabishvili these allegations were ludicrous, because the charges “are very general” lacking details and based “completely on assumptions”. According to him, he had not yet seen any actual files of the case, including the texts of witness testimonies.

Members of the opposition UNM interpret Merabishvili's detention as political revenge.

Until the new reinvestigation of the murder, the case was taken to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by the Girgvliani family. The court delivered its verdict in April, 2011.

“The court is struck by how the different branches of state power… acted in concert in preventing justice from being done in this gruesome homicide case,” the judgment reads. “The court deplores that… the authorities turned a blind eye to the applicants’ credible allegation of complicity between some of the persons from the Interior Minister’s wife’s group in the cafe and the direct perpetrators of the crime," the verdict reads.

The incident between Girgvliani and the former officials started at the Shardeni cafe in Tbilisi. Based on the investigation, Girgvliani verbally insulted one of the table members where former officials and the wife of Merabishvili were sitting.