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Ex-TV Anchor and Founder Released from Jail
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 26 Aug.'09 / 11:37

Shalva Ramishvili, a co-founder of now closed 202 TV station, was released from jail on August 26, after the end of his four-year prison term.

Ramishvili, who was arrested in August, 2005, was found guilty in March, 2006 of blackmail and extortion of USD 100,000 from then ruling party lawmaker Koba Bekauri. Ramishvili has never pled guilty and refused to appeal for pardon, which could have led to his early release, on the grounds that such move would have amounted to admitting the crime, which, he says, never committed.

Ramishvili, at the time of his arrest, was an anchor of a popular daily political talk-show Debates on the 202 TV – the only political talk-show on the Georgian television stations at that time. 202 TV, which only covered Tbilisi, was also the only TV station at that time airing journalistic investigations.

In an open letter, published by the Georgian daily Rezonansi hours before his release, Ramishvili writes that he served the prison term for “fabricated” charges and vows “to fight to the death” against Saakashvili.

“I was punished because I was criticizing [President] Saakashvili in 2004-2005, when he was on the peak of his glory… The goal of my imprisonment was to suppress an independent television station,” Ramishvili writes.

He writes that he would engage in “merciless and uncompromising struggle” against President Saakashvili.

He says that he and Saakashvili know each other very well and both understand, that “it will be a dangerous and brutal confrontation.” Ramishvili was Saakashvili’s ally and his party’s PR consultant before the 2003 Rose Revolution. He was a co-author of hugely popular series of political satire radio spots and then of a similar type of TV cartoon series, both targeting then President Shevardnadze and his government.

“Prison term kills illusions in a man and today I can more easily undertake risky and adventurous steps. It is clear for me that it won’t be possible to defeat the Saakashvili’s regime without such actions. So let Misha know: after my involvement, he will either regret very much or feel pain… One should not confront an adversary armed to the teeth with tossing a dandelion,” Ramishvili writes in his open letter.

In January, 2009 the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the Georgian government to pay to Ramishvili and Kokhreidze EUR 6,000 each for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 14,694, jointly for costs and expenses for violation of their rights on number of occasions during their pre-trial custody.

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