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President Says Ex-Interior Minister’s Rights were Violated in Prison

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, May 10
The Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili told Imedi TV that the rights of Georgia’s former Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivane Merabishvili were violated in prison. However, the violation did not mean that Merabishvili is a political prisoner as the opposition claims.

Margvelashvili stated that the current Georgian leadership took a wrong step when Merabishvili was in prison, which makes people in Europe think that Merabishvili’s arrest could have political grounds.

“Merabishvili was released illegally from prison. I appealed to the government of Georgia to investigate the case. However, they refused to do this. Due to the incident of the case some people in Europe and particularly in the European Court of Human Rights think that the former official could be detained because of his past,” the president said and added that “no one took responsibility for the illegal release of Merabishvili.”

The European Court of Human Rights stated in its last year’s verdict that the pre-trial detention of Merabishvili was “lawful”, but later it was unduly used as a means to exert pressure on him.

The case concerned the arrest and pre-trial detention of Merabishvili, and his complaint that there had been ulterior purposes behind these measures.

Merabishvili namely alleged that the arrest and the pre-trial detention had aimed to remove him from the political scene, and that the Chief Prosecutor had attempted to use his detention as leverage to pressure him to provide information about other unrelated cases.

Merabishvili claimed that his taking out of the prison was for exercising pressure on him to say something against the former, United National Movement top figures.

The ECHR said that Merabishvili’s pre-trial detention was not principally meant to remove him from Georgia’s political scene. However, the Court concluded that the predominant purpose of that restriction had changed over time.

"While in the beginning that purpose had been the investigation of offences based on a reasonable suspicion, later on the predominant purpose became to obtain information about [former Georgian Prime Minister Zurab] Zhvania’s death and [former Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili’s bank accounts”, the verdict declared.

The Court held, by nine votes to eight, that Georgia must pay Merabishvili ˆ4,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

The government of Georgia has already paid the money and stated that the European court confirmed Merabishvili is not a political prisoner.