Zurab Tchiaberashvili, the governor of Kakheti region and ex-healthcare minister, left the detention facility in Kutaisi on May 23 after posting bail.
He was arrested along with ex-PM Vano Merabishvili on May 21 and charged with abuse of power, misspending/embezzlement and bribing of voters, involving allegations of funneling public funds to UNM’s election campaign purposes last year when he served as healthcare minister.
“The case is completely absurd,” he told journalists after he was released. “It is obviously political persecution against former Prime Minister and former healthcare minister; it is related to our political activities… Allegations are completely groundless.”
Kutaisi City Court ordered pretrial detention of Merabishvili and release of Tchiaberashvili on GEL 20,000 bail during a hearing on May 21; prosecution was requesting pretrial detention for both of them.
Tchiaberashvili said that the prosecution’s arguments to apply measure of restraint against him and Merabishvili were “completely feeble.”
“We have stated for multiple times publicly that we were continuing our political activities openly and that we were not going to hide [from investigation],” Tchiaberashvili said and added that when he was summoned for interrogation on May 21, after which he was detained, he was sure that the arrest was inevitable because unlike first notification for questioning in February, this recent one was pointing that he had the right to be accompanied by his lawyer; he said that he even decided to take his personal belongings with him at the interrogation.
Tchiaberashvili says that his arrest was carried out in procedural violations. The ex-healthcare minister, who served as Georgia’s ambassador to the Council of Europe and then to Switzerland, has diplomatic rank and for that reason, he and his lawyer argue, that only the Justice Minister was authorized to arrest him.