PM Irakli Garibashvili denied allegations about pressure from chief prosecutor, leveled by former interior minister Vano Merabishvili, who is now in pre-trial detention, as “unserious”.
Merabishvili said at a court hearing in Kutaisi on Tuesday that chief prosecutor, Otar Partskhaladze, told him to help solve the case of death of PM Zurab Zhvania and to provide information about ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili’s “bank accounts”, otherwise threatened with deterioration of his condition in prison and with the arrest of his friends and relatives. Merabishvili said that at about 1:30am on Saturday he was taken out of his prison cell with his head shrouded in his jacket and driven to a location, which he thinks was the office of department of penitentiary system, where the meeting with chief prosecutor took place.
“This allegation is a bit unserious to put it mildly; kidnappings, shrouding someone’s head with something – that’s not the method we use. If we want to know something there are whole set of procedures in place and investigators will go and interrogate him,” Garibashvili told Georgian journalists in Azerbaijani capital Baku.
“I think psychoanalysts or maybe even psychiatrist will make more competent and more serious comment on these allegations,” he said.
He then suggested that Merabishvili leveled these allegations either because he was “scared” by ongoing investigation into PM Zurab Zhvania’s death in 2005 or by listing possible reasons why Merabishvili PM Garibashvili said that there might be he does not know what the aim of such groundless allegation might be.
“It might be kind of a provocation against our authorities; it might be an attempt to discredit the new chief prosecutor. It might be caused by an excess fear. There might be several reasons of why he [Merabishvili] leveled such allegations – he might be overly scared – I’ve heard that a person [Koba Kharshiladze], who was an employee of the Tbilisi municipality and before that he was [late PM Zurab] Zhvania’s driver and bodyguard, was arrested; or there might be another reason and he [Merabishvili] is trying to blackmail his former superior, Mikheil Saakashvili, because that arrest [of Kharshiladze] coincided quite strangely, although he [Kharshiladze] was arrested in connection to other case [unrelated to Zhvania’s death]. In my opinion, [Merabishvili’s allegations] are aimed at provocation and discrediting our government, or at blackmailing Mikheil Saakashvili on the part of Vano Merabishvili. In his [allegations] Merabishvili made quite important emphasis – he laid emphasis on Zhvania’s death, which is obscured, and he also laid an important emphasis on Saakashvili’s financial assets. Thus, let’s wait – they will manage to sort out issues between each other better,” Garibashvili said.
Koba Kharshiladze, mentioned by the PM in his remarks, was arrested on December 16 and charged with illegal entrepreneurship and money laundering while serving as deputy head of one of the Tbilisi’s districts. Kharshiladze was chief bodyguard of Zhvania at the time when the former PM was found dead in February, 2005. Arrest of Kharshiladze, although in connection to the case which has nothing to do with Zhvania’s death, triggered speculation that it might be somehow related to the ongoing investigation into Zhvania’s death, which was re-opened after the Georgian Dream came into power late last year.
UNM opposition party in which Merabishvili formally retains the post of secretary general, called on the authorities to probe into Merabishvili’s allegations. UNM also called for suspending chief prosecutor from office pending the investigation. UNM said the same should also apply to minister in charge of penitentiary, Sozar Subari, because Merabishvili suspects he was taken to the office of penitentiary department for a meeting with the chief prosecutor. Merabishvili’s lawyers have requested from the authorities to hand over recordings of all the relevant CCTVs, including prison surveillance cameras, in order to verify the claims.