(The text is corrected from its initial version published on August 19 )
Several opposition activists will be released from detention as a result of consultations launched between Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and some opposition leaders a week ago, an opposition politician said on August 19.
Zurab Abashidze of the Our Georgia-Free Democrats party (OGFD), part of Alliance for Georgia, told Civil.Ge that up to ten activists will be released, including from New Rights and Republican parties. They will be released from pre-trial detention following the courts decisions.
At the August 12 meeting a group of opposition leaders handed to the Interior Minister lists of activists arrested for various, as the opposition says, “fabricated charges.” One of the lists, handed by the Alliance for Georgia, contained 48 activists, including from other opposition parties.
“We are moderately optimistic and we were not creating any illusion that all of those people would be released in a day or two,” Zurab Abashidze told RFE/RL Georgian service earlier on August 19. “But process has started and we have to assess it positively, because some people were released.”
He said the process should be treated carefully without media hype in order not to undermine it.
Shota Utiashvili, head of the information and analytical department at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), said some activists had already been released, but declined to specify number.
He told Civil.Ge on August 19, that although no meeting between Minister Merabishvili and opposition leaders was yet planned, MIA was “continuing cooperation” with the opposition on the matter through keeping a regular contact with them. Zurab Abashidze also said that the “contacts” continued with MIA.
Utiashvili described this cooperation as “business-like”.
“There will be no problem in arranging a meeting [between the Minister and opposition leaders], if such meeting becomes necessary,” he added.
In another related development, last week court in the town of Gori sentenced two local activists affiliated with the Republican Party to three and four years in prison – one was charged with possession and carrying of a hand-grenade and another with drug possession. The both men are in the list handed to the Interior Ministry and both of them claim political motives behind their arrest.
Utiashvili said that in some cases “grave crimes” are implicated to opposition activists and indicated that it would be hardly possible to find a compromise with the opposition over those cases.
Kakha Kukava, co-leader of the opposition Conservative Party, said five of the party activists are under arrest and in the list of those persons, which was handed to the Interior Ministry last week. The Conservative Party itself was not present at the meeting.
“None of our activists are yet released. Tomorrow [on August 20] will be a court hearing into the case of one of our activists and we’ll see what happens,” Kukava told Civil.Ge on August 19.
On August 20, however, the Conservative Party said that the court hearing was postponed for a week.
Zurab Abashidze of OGFD said that the authorities would not acknowledge that there were “political prisoners” in Georgia. “But at this stage it is more important to achieve release of opposition activists,” he said.