Secretary general of UNM party and former PM Vano Merabishvili, who is held in pretrial detention facing multiple criminal charges, has begun a hunger strike demanding a TV set in his cell, Merabishvili’s lawyer, Giorgi Chiviashvili, said on June 17.
Merabishvili is also demanding from the authorities to issue a permit that would allow his family members to gain access to money kept on his personal bank account, the lawyer said.
“We have not received neither positive nor negative response from [the prison administration], hence Mr. Merabishvili resorted to the toughest form of [protest] and went on hunger strike,” Chiviashvili said.
Chiviashvili made the remarks before meeting with representatives from the Tbilisi-based foreign diplomatic mission.
A spokesman for the ministry in charge of penitentiary system confirmed that Merabishvili went on hunger strike demanding a TV set. “A TV set will be placed in [his cell], after other inmates [in other cells] also have TV sets,” ministry’s spokesman, Irakli Kordzaia, told Civil.ge.
According to the law an accused can have a personal TV set and radio receiver, sent in by relatives, upon permission of the prison administration if it does not violate detention facility’s internal regulations and if it does not disturb other accused or convicts held in the same facility.
UNM lawmakers condemned once again on June 17 holding of Merabishvili in pretrial detention, saying that Merabishvili was PM Ivanishvili’s “personal prisoner”.
In early June, when a group of European Parliament members visited Georgia, a member of the delegation Polish MEP from the European People’s Party group, Krzysztof Lisek, met Merabishvili in the prison cell. After the meeting Lisek said that Merabishvili’s conditions in the detention facility were “satisfactory.” He, however, noted that Merabishvili was missing news and his family members and added that he was informed by the Justice Minister and the minister for penitentiary that Merabishvili had the right to request in a written form a TV set and a short meeting with his family members. “I hope the answer will be positive,” MEP Lisek added.