Georgia’s former PM sentenced to four and a half years in jail

Vano Merabishvili in Tbilisi City Court, photo by IPN agency, 27 Feb 2014 - 16:28, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s former Prime Minister and ex-Minister of Internal Affairs, Vano Merabishvili, has been found guilty of abuse of power and was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment.

Tbilisi City Court found the ex-official guilty of abusing his power when he used unlawful methods to disperse an opposition rally in Tbilisi on May 26, 2011. At the time Merabishvili was head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

Originally, the Court sentenced Merabishvili to six years in jail, however according to the amnesty law, the term was reduced by a quarter.

The Prosecutor’s Office claimed Merabishvili ordered riot police to use excessive force while dispersing the rally. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons against the protesters.

Four people were found dead on the night of the rally – two law enforcers and two civilians.

Merabishvili denied all accusations against him. His attorney, Giorgi Chivashvili, insisted the use of force against the protesters on May 26 was "justified”, as the protestors aimed to "destabilize the situation in Georgia”.

Merabishvili’s defence team planned to appeal the verdict and, if unsuccessful, will transfer the ex-PM’s case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

"The Court was unable to resist the pressure from the Government” Chivashvili stated after the verdict was announced.

Merabishvili and members of former ruling party United National Movement (UNM) believed the verdict and other claims against the ex-government official were a result of political pressure on the opposition and "revenge” by the current ruling Georgian Dream party.

Today’s verdict provoked a clash between law enforcers and UNM supporters who were gathered outside the Tbilisi City Court. The Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed eight activists were taken into custody by police.

Prosecutor Natia Mezvrishvili was satisfied with the verdict and said: "This [verdict] belongs to hundreds of our citizens harmed by the police’s violent actions on May 26".